Funding request to replace LeBaron Hall heads to the state

The state Board of Regents will send a three-year (fiscal years 2021-23), $30 million building request to the state by the end of the month on behalf of Iowa State. If approved next spring by the Legislature, the funds would support a College of Human Sciences plan to replace the 60-year-old LeBaron Hall and renovate a small piece of the adjoining MacKay Hall. The intent is to create modern classroom, lab, research and presentation spaces for three departments with nationally recognized programs: apparel, events and hospitality management; human development and family studies; and food science and human nutrition.

The new building would be an estimated 70% larger than LeBaron on the same footprint. In addition to the state support, the proposed $55 million project includes $15 million in private gifts and $10 million in university funds. Associate vice president for facilities planning and management Paul Fuligni said Iowa State will seek board permission yet this fall to begin planning the facility, with a goal of holding classes in it in fall 2024.

The board's FY21 facilities funding request to the state also includes $1.2 million to replace aging transmission equipment at Iowa Public Radio (IPR). Most of that request, $875,000, would replace the antenna and transmission system for WOI-FM on campus. WOI-FM is the main signal for IPR in the Ames-Des Moines area, and serves 60,000 listeners in 15 counties.

Operations support

At its Sept. 19 meeting, the board also approved and will send to the state Iowa State's request for $7 million in additional operating support in the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2020, the same increase it sought a year ago. State law sets an Oct. 1 deadline for appropriations requests for the upcoming fiscal year. No incremental increases will be requested for the university's direct appropriations for programs and units.

President Wendy Wintersteen told board members the request, if funded, would support student success, which begins with innovative faculty and staff. She pledged Iowa State support for the board's five-year tuition plan and a holistic look at all fund sources: tuition, state support, reallocations and savings, and new revenue streams.

Wintersteen noted Iowa State's rock-bottom tuition rates among its peer universities, combined with lower enrollments, is reducing overall income.

"Like all Iowa businesses, Iowa State is experiencing increased costs for employee salaries, infrastructure, technology and services. As a result of increasing costs and lower tuition revenue, Iowa State made some extremely difficult decisions to reallocate $23 million in the current year's budget -- or 3.1% of the general university budget," she said.

Iowa State and the University of Iowa will seek an additional $2.9 million in FY21 for the four platforms in its joint biosciences innovation effort, currently supported by $1.1 million in state funds. Iowa State is taking the lead on three of the four platforms (biobased chemicals, precision and digital agriculture, vaccines and immunotherapies) identified in a 2017 TEConomy report released by Gov. Kim Reynolds. Iowa is overseeing the fourth, medical devices. A year ago, the two universities sought $4 million ($1 million per platform), so this request is for the unfunded portion of last year's request.

Wintersteen also pointed out Iowa State's value to the state. That includes accessible education to Iowans of all backgrounds (with an average 4.4 years to graduate), faculty research that responds to challenges and benefits the state's communities, a research park that serves as an "engine of economic growth and opportunity for the entire state," and innovative, research-based extension programming in all 99 counties.

Other ISU items

In other business, the board gave permission to:

  • Phase out the Iowa Public Universities Application Portal, launched in July 2015, due to low use. Less than 1% of undergraduate applications at any of the three regent universities come through the portal. University of Northern Iowa provost Jim Wohlpart told board members that because of the Regents Admissions Index (which is "unique in the nation" and lets applicants self-compute acceptance to a specific university), students "don't need to hedge their bets; they only need to apply to the school they want to attend." He said 90% of resident applications are to a single regent university. Wohlpart also said the National Common Application, which all three regent universities began using since 2015, allows students to apply to many more colleges and universities, public and private.
  • Demolish the Insectary building on Pammel Drive. Tenants moved into either the Advanced Teaching and Research Building or Science Hall II last year, and the building is vacant. University funds will cover the estimated $600,000 demolition cost, and the site will become green space.
  • Add a bachelor of science in business analytics degree program in the Ivy College of Business, beginning in January 2020.
  • Add a master of athletic training degree program in the College of Human Sciences, beginning in May 2020.
  • Accept a 7-acre, five-building gift from the Committee for Agriculture Development, a nonprofit corporation affiliated with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The property is on State Avenue, adjacent to the Curtiss Farm, and will be managed with the Curtiss Farm.
  • Begin planning to replace the slate roof on all sections of Friley residence hall with asphalt shingles. The project also will repair or replace top-floor dormers and gutters, as needed. An estimated cost of $5.6 million to $6 million would be covered by dormitory system improvement funds.
  • Sell "as is" (due to a discrepancy about its size) up to 10.6 acres of woodland on Stagecoach Road in east Ames to an adjoining property owner for $166,500, the highest of two bids received. The land was a 1954 gift to the university and previously used for forestry department teaching and research (1954-66) and leased to the city (1966-2016).