Regent presidents make FY20 funding request to legislators

President Wendy Wintersteen emphasized Iowa State's efficiency and record of accomplishment during her presentation Jan. 29 to the Iowa Legislature's education appropriations subcommittee. State Board of Regents president Michael Richards joined the three regent university presidents for their funding requests to the Legislature for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Iowa State's request for state support remains consistent with its proposal to the board in September and Wintersteen's presentation to Gov. Kim Reynolds in November.

Wintersteen highlighted Iowa State's administrative efficiency, higher faculty teaching loads and $12 million in strategic realignments last year.

"ISU is proud to be recognized for our lean organization and structure, but we can't continue to deliver excellence on efficiencies alone. New resources are needed to ensure we can continue to fulfill our land-grant university mission at a world-class level," she said.

Iowa State seeks $7 million in new operating support, to be used for resident undergraduate financial aid.

She told legislators average student debt (for those graduating with debt) decreased more than $2,200 since 2013, to $27,643. The percentage of Iowa State students that borrowed money last year dropped to 59 percent, the lowest since recordkeeping began. Still, nearly 10,000 of 15,000 resident undergraduates had some financial need -- an average $12,124 after Pell Grant awards.

Wintersteen said private fundraising for scholarships remains a priority. Iowa State awarded $18 million in private scholarships last year to more than 6,400 students. Additional state support "will help ensure more Iowa students with financial need have access to an exceptional ISU education and graduates can leave ISU with less or no debt," she said.

Economic development

Wintersteen repeated Iowa State and the University of Iowa's shared request for $4 million in recurring funds to support four biosciences platforms identified in the November 2017 biosciences report prepared for the state by TEConomy Partners, Columbus, Ohio: biobased chemicals, precision and digital agriculture, vaccines and immunotherapy, and medical devices. Iowa State scientists would lead efforts on the first three. The governor's budget includes $2 million for this purpose.

"We believe the full amount of $4 million is necessary for us to fully develop the important economic opportunities," Wintersteen said. "Our faculty would leverage these state resources to attract external funding to advance research and innovation in these areas, and transfer more technology to the marketplace through startup companies and industry partnerships."

Library renovation

Wintersteen asked legislators for $26 million over two years -- $10 million in fiscal year 2020 -- to help fund an estimated $28 million in renovations to Parks Library. Private gifts would complete the funding package. Additional technology-equipped study and collaborative spaces in areas now serving as book stacks and more space for the special collections and university archives departments are planned. Reynolds' budget doesn't include this facility funding for FY20.

Iowa State's funding request also includes:

  • A 10 percent increase ($410,000) to the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab's operating appropriation to better serve the state's $32.5 billion animal agriculture industry. Reynolds' budget does not include an increase.
  • Continued commitment to directed appropriations that support specific land-grant functions such as ISU Extension and Outreach, livestock disease research and the Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station.