Regents like five-year plan that connects tuition increases and state support

With the goal of making education costs more predictable for students and families, the state Board of Regents agreed on a five-year plan that ties the size of tuition increases for resident undergraduates directly to state funding increases. Regents president Michael Richards presented the plan during the board's Nov. 15 meeting in Cedar Falls.

The plan requires that tuition increase discussions occur during April and June to better respond to the spring legislative session. The "guardrails," as Richards termed them, apply to Iowa State and the University of Iowa, whose tuitions are among the lowest of their peer schools.

  • If the Iowa Legislature fully funds the schools' appropriation requests, the base resident undergraduate tuition would increase 3 percent in the fall.
  • If state funding remains unchanged for the next fiscal year, resident undergraduate tuition would increase 3 percent plus the projected HEPI (Higher Education Price Index), in the range of 2 percent the last few years.
  • If the Legislature partially funds the universities' funding requests, resident undergraduate tuition would be set somewhere in between.

Regent Larry McKibben called the proposal "a methodology that will be significantly better for our universities," especially with a recent history that includes flat state funding and mid-year funding reversions.

At Northern Iowa, Richards said tuition also will be tied to the university's appropriation. The strategy, though, has to be tuition levels that make UNI more competitive with its Midwestern peer schools.

Stadium area improvements

Senior associate athletics director for operations Chris Jorgensen told regents fundraising has surpassed $40 million for the $90 million plan to expand and update the area north of Jack Trice stadium. He said the funding plan for the project is evenly split between private gifts and athletics department operating funds.

With the board's final approval Nov. 16, the expansion project will be done in four phases between June 2019 and August 2021. Plans include:

  • Constructing a four-story, 110,000-square-foot performance center east of the Bergstrom football complex. It will house academic, nutrition and dining services for all 450 Cyclone student athletes as well as locker rooms, training areas and sports medicine facilities for the soccer and softball teams. Some football program spaces also will move into the addition.
  • Removing the Olsen building and creating a stadium entry plaza in its place.
  • Extending the stadium concourse around the north side of the Jacobsen Building, similar to the look around the Sukup facility on the stadium's south side. Jorgensen said the north grass hill areas for fans will remain intact.
  • Remodeling part of the Jacobsen ground floor for game day use by the visiting team, officials and media.
  • Adding a single-level space to the west side of the Bergstrom complex. It will house athletics' turf operations and other storage spaces.

Campus safety update

In light of recent tragedies on university campuses -- in and outside of Iowa -- the board's campus and student affairs committee requested an update on the regent universities' student safety efforts.

ISU Police chief Michael Newton said the university's SafeRide escort program, typically offered from 9 p.m. to 5:30 a.m., was extended to begin at 6 p.m. in response to numerous phone calls from parents, students and employees following the off-campus murder of undergraduate Celia Barquin Arozamena.

A two-person education unit offers a variety of training courses, including self defense and general safety. Demand for this spiked after Arozamena's death. Newton said one person works specifically with international students and underrepresented students for inclusion and education.

Newton said Arozamena's death sparked a more collaborative effort with the Ames Police about the local homeless population and the two departments are developing an outreach team. He said campus officers assigned to this issue on an ongoing basis work to connect homeless people with services and housing and to dismantle encampments on campus property.

He said it's still important to assign officers to foot and bike patrols for better access and visibility on campus.

Police officers held their annual safety walk with Student Government leaders Nov. 1, during which they're looking for things such as burned out lights, landscaping that creates dark or obscured areas, etc.

Newton also briefly described several services, programs in the development stage:

  • CyWatch, a neighborhood watch program designed for campuses developed with the residence department, will be piloted in the next year.
  • ISU Guardian, an app that turns a smart phone into a mobile safety device in which friends or family members can virtually walk a student home. If trouble arises, the guardian can alert police. The anticipated launch is spring semester.
  • A student advisory group to Newton met for the first time earlier this month to talk proactively about safety concerns. Newton worked with Student Government leaders to assemble the team.

Other Iowa State items

In other Iowa State business, the board approved:

  • Fifty faculty professional development assignments (PDA) for the year that begins July 1, 2019: 16 for fall semester 2019, 17 for spring semester 2020 and 17 for the full academic year. All ISU faculty members employed at least half-time are eligible to apply for a PDA; there is no length of service requirement. Board policy is to approve PDAs for up to 3 percent of eligible faculty at each university.
  • A $7 million plan to finish the fifth floor of the Advanced Teaching and Research Building for the Nanovaccine Institute. Funding features $4.5 million in private gifts and $2.5 million in university funds. As proposed, construction would begin in April and wrap up one year later (April 2019).
  • A $3.2 million plan for life cycle improvements in Helser Hall, including replacing the asbestos-containing tile floor, repairing and painting interior walls, installing LED lighting and new room furnishings. The residence department's improvement funds will cover the cost.
  • A revised budget and plan for the poultry farm on South State Avenue, due to higher than anticipated costs. The budget goes up $750,000, to $5.75 million. Six buildings for teaching and research functions will be merged into one, eliminating duplicate mechanical spaces, restrooms, showers and public spaces. The project will be covered by private gifts. Construction is scheduled to begin yet this calendar year, with completion next fall.