Regents approve FY18 state funding requests

The downside to Iowa State's eight years of enrollment growth, during a period of stagnant state funding, is that the state appropriation per resident student has dropped more than 25 percent -- from $12,705 in 2008 to $9,421 this fall -- President Steven Leath told members of the state Board of Regents last week.

"The bottom line is this: inadequate state funding has put a huge burden on the families of our students; that's pretty apparent," Leath said. "It puts us in a difficult position as we think about how we're going to stand by our commitment of affordability and accessibility without jeopardizing quality."

Still, Leath called state support "vital to our mission" in presenting to the regents last week Iowa State's request for 2 percent growth in each of the next two fiscal years to both the general university and direct appropriations (for example, extension and outreach, veterinary diagnostic lab or the research park). The board, which met Sept. 7-8 at the University of Iowa, faces an Oct. 1 deadline to submit operating and building funding requests to the state for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2017.

If approved by the 2017 Legislature, a 2 percent increase to the general university appropriation would add $4.8 million to this year's $708 million operating budget. Leath said additional state funding will help:

  • Recruit and retain top faculty
  • Lower the student-faculty ratio
  • Continue to lower student debt, which is down 14 percent from 2006

However, Leath said a 2 percent increase in state support is far from what Iowa State needs to even maintain where it's at now. "Making up the difference" will have to come from tuition revenue, he said, including a proposed 2 percent increase in each of the next two years, possible additions to Iowa State's differential tuition list and targeted fee increases. The universities will present 2017-18 tuition proposals to the board next month.

Funding request for vet lab

The board also approved Iowa State's proposal to request a state commitment of $20 million per year for five years (FY 2018-22) to replace the veterinary diagnostic laboratory (VDL) at the College of Veterinary Medicine. It would be a free-standing facility at the Vet Med campus. Funding for the estimated $124 million project also would include $20 million in private gifts and $4 million in university funds.

Senior vice president for university services Kate Gregory told board members that the VDL runs more than 1.2 million tests annually, many of which are critical to protecting the safety of the country's food supply. She said only one other lab in the country has the same capabilities.

Since it opened in 1976, the VDL's employee base has grown from 11 faculty and 20 staff to 25 faculty and 120 technical staff in space that hasn't changed. In addition to providing more space for modern diagnostic technologies, a new facility will meet biosafety and biocontainment requirements.

The regents will send the request to the governor and the 2017 Legislature.

Record enrollment

In his monthly report to the board, Leath shared Iowa State's eighth straight year of record enrollment, at 36,660. This includes record numbers of nonresident students (15,640) and international students (4,131). Leath also shared improvements in these markers from a year ago:


Fall 2016

Fall 2015

Average ACT score*



One-year retention



Six-year graduation



*Direct from high school freshmen

UNI presidential search

The regents approved a timeline for the search for Northern Iowa's next president, which officially opened Sept. 12. Select candidates will be interviewed at an off-site location around Nov. 12, with finalists' interviews with both the UNI community and the board targeted for the first week in December and a president selected soon after. A 21-member search committee is working with higher education search specialist, AGB Search, Washington, D.C. UNI provost Jim Wohlpart has been serving as interim president since July 3. Former president Bill Ruud resigned to become president of Marietta College, Ohio.

Other ISU business

In other business, the board approved Iowa State requests to:

  • Begin an expanded (from $1.8 million to $3.4 million) project at the College of Veterinary Medicine to relocate the Gentle Doctor Café and add an adjacent commons and meeting room. This will involve a second-floor addition to the north side of the complex and renovation of existing space. The addition's exterior will look similar to the new large and small animal hospitals nearby: a combination of white metal panels and glass windows. The proposed commons, with a capacity of 50 people, is designed as flexible space for collaborative academic uses, meetings and special events. Currently, construction is scheduled to begin in May and last about 16 months. There will be food service at the college during construction, likely a reduced menu in a temporary location. College funds ($3.35 million) and private gifts ($100,000) will pay for the project.
  • Award an honorary Doctor of Science degree to alumnus and Orange City native Dennis Muilenburg, chairman, president and chief executive officer of The Boeing Company, for "outstanding contributions to the advancement of science and technology, particularly in the field of aerospace engineering." Muilenberg received a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering from Iowa State in 1986. He'll be honored at a May 2017 graduation event.
  • Promote one more (previously tenured) faculty member, bringing the total number of actions at Iowa State for 2016-17 to 59, (58 cases were presented in April).
  • Begin design work on a $22 million project to expand the chilled water (air conditioning) capacity on the north and west sides of campus in response to recent building projects and anticipated growth in the next 10 years. Specifically, it will add two chillers and one cooling tower to the north plant (Kooser Drive), replace the underground electrical line between the power plant and north plant to operate the chillers, and install new underground chilled water pipes near Kooser and Bissell Road. Utility revenue bonds ($18.75 million) and utility funds ($3.25 million) will pay for the project.
  • Name an indoor tennis practice facility for 1956 alumnus, Des Moines attorney and longtime ISU supporter Bruce McKee. The naming officially will occur when the university purchases the building by the end of an initial five-year lease with developer Dickson Jensen. The tennis facility is under construction on South Dakota Avenue south of the basketball practice complex. McKee provided a $500,000 gift for the purchase of the $2.5 million facility.