Students appeal to regents to act

State Board of Regents president Mike Richards said the board won't organize campus forums -- one on each of the three regent campuses -- demanded by students during the public comment portion of the board's Nov. 13 meeting in Cedar Falls. But he said board members might attend any such forums.

"They [students] were respectful of the board, and I certainly respect them," Richards said. "The regents don't call public forums, but we would consider going to those."

Dozens of college students from both public and private schools in the state converged on the board meeting at the University of Northern Iowa to address primarily two topics: the impact of tuition hikes, particularly on underrepresented students, and a perceived lack of response to incidents of racism on the campuses.

Board members didn't respond at the time to the comments, though Richards noted they never do during the public comment portion of each meeting.

"The public talks to us, and we listen," he said.

During her campus update to the board, President Wendy Wintersteen said Iowa State is committed to assuring all ISU students -- including the record 24.5% this fall who identified as international or U.S. multicultural -- have "the tools, resources and support to reach their full potential."

She said university leaders responded Nov. 13 to demands late last month from the campus group Students Against Racism. Both the demands and the university responses are posted on Iowa State's campus climate website.

"We value our students standing up against racism, and we stand with them," Wintersteen said.

Economic impact, part 1

Hannah Ruffridge, assistant director of higher education consulting for Emsi, presented an overview of the firm's seven-month project for the board -- an analysis of the economic impact and return on investment of Iowa's three public universities using fiscal year 2018 data. Emsi is a labor market analytics firm based in Moscow, Idaho, and previously completed studies for 30 other statewide systems. She said Emsi is known for its conservative methodology, looking at added income to the state rather than sales, and comparing that data to a scenario in which (in this case) the regent universities didn't exist.

In FY18, Ruffridge said the regent system added $11.8 billion to the state economy. That figure represents 6.2% of Iowa's gross state product, she noted, and supports the equivalent of 149,980 jobs. One of 14 jobs in the state is supported by the activities of the universities and their students, she said.

Iowa State's portion of that economic impact is $3.4 billion. The full reports, executive summaries and fact sheets (systemwide and school-specific) are available on the regents website.

Richards said the board will use the data for planning and communicating with key audiences around the state.

"It clearly shows the impact our universities have on our state," he said.

Regent universities: Combined annual spending impacts

University operations

$1.9 billion


$32.7 million

U of Iowa Hospital and Clinics

$1.5 billion


$730 million

Extension and outreach*

13,000 companies and organizations

Economic development

$1 billion

Out-of-state visitors to campus

$38.1 million

Volunteerism (2.3 million hours)

$54.2 million

Nonresident student spending**

$232.9 million

Alumni (earnings, business profits)***

$6.2 billion

*"Difficult to quantify"
**Factors in a portion of Iowa residents who stayed (but would have left if regent universities didn't exist)
***One year based on 30 years of data

Economic impact, part 2

In his annual report to the board, interim vice president for economic development and industry relations David Spalding said economic development is "deeply in our genes" as the state's land-grant university.

The 2019 fiscal year, which concluded June 30, featured 165 faculty disclosures of intellectual property to the office of intellectual property and technology transfer, a 14% increase over the previous year. Those disclosures led to 98 patent applications, with 32 patents granted by the federal government. Spalding said the university signed 46 new license or option agreements with companies around the world for ISU-developed technology during FY19, bringing the total number operating and producing income during the year to 155. Finally, he said those agreements resulted in worldwide sales exceeding $88 million, $8.3 million of which was in Iowa.

ISU building projects

The board approved a schematic design and budget ($10 million) for renovations to floors 4-6 at the Memorial Union. The project will dismantle former residence/hotel rooms to create office suites for student-focused services. It also updates the heating/cooling, electrical, communications and security systems on all three floors and locates restrooms centrally near the elevators. Scheduled tenants include the veterans center, student legal services, study abroad, LGBTQIA+ student success, NCORE/ISCORE planning, lectures series and international students and scholars. MU revenue bonds will cover the entire cost. Construction is scheduled to begin in January 2021 and last about 20 months.

ISU leaders also received permission to begin planning to replace the College of Human Sciences' 61-year-old LeBaron Hall with a facility about 70% larger. The project also renovates a small section of the adjoining MacKay Hall. The university's evaluation of LeBaron Hall found it to be a poor candidate for renovation. The funding proposal for the estimated $55 million cost includes state appropriations ($30 million), private gifts ($15 million) and university funds ($10 million). A three-year funding request will go before the 2020 Legislature.

Admissions index

The board approved adding computer science to the course categories in the Regent Admissions Index, the formula the three universities use to automatically admit Iowa residents. Computer science joins the five original categories: language arts, math, social studies, science and foreign language. The regents' admissions study team asked three computer science faculty members to review all courses offered in Iowa high schools that meet K-12 standards set by the Computer Science Teachers Association and identify which had the depth to serve as college prep coursework. The trio identified four courses: IB computer science, computer science principles, AP computer science principles and AP computer science A.

In other business, the board approved these ISU requests:

  • Effective Jan. 1, 2020, a change to the regents' catastrophic illness policy (section 2.1.4.A) to allow faculty and staff working at least half-time who don't accrue vacation -- such as nine-month faculty -- to receive vacation leave donations for a catastrophic illness or injury. Currently, employees who don't accrue vacation aren't eligible to receive such donations.
  • Professional development assignments during the 2020-21 academic year for 48 faculty members. The list includes 32 semester-long assignments, 14 for the full academic year and two for the 2021 calendar year. The faculty group includes 26 professors, 16 associate professors and six assistant professors.
  • Additional renovations in the Union Drive Community Center that provide new seats and tables, new ceiling, floor and wall finishes, and energy-efficient lighting in the Marketplace dining center. The work will be phased over three summers (2020-22) to minimize service disruptions. ISU Dining funds will cover the project.
  • A schematic design and budget ($5.9 million) to replace the slate roof on all seven sections of Friley residence hall with asphalt shingles. The project, which also will repair dormers and replace gutters as needed, will be phased over two summers, 2020 and 2021.
  • A gift of 262 acres (three parcels) in Lucas County, two miles east of ISU's McNay Research Farm. The university will use the land for research plots. Land owner Ronny Tharp's intention is that the land become part of the university's farms and not be sold for 50 years.
  • A name for the under-construction feed mill and grain science complex at the Curtiss Farm west of Ames: Iowa State University Kent Corporation Feed Mill and Grain Science Complex. Muscatine-based Kent Corp. provided the lead gift of $8 million for the $21 million complex.
  • Closure of two centers. The Industrial Assessment Center's most recent federal grant expired five years ago. The Center for Plant Responses to Environmental Stresses has insufficient funding to operate as a separate center, but the research continues in the plant pathology and microbiology department.

The board's next meeting is Jan. 15-16 in its Urbandale office.