Regents hope for open, safe campuses this fall

During its June 4 meeting, state Board of Regents president Mike Richards reiterated the board's intent that the three regent universities offer a full campus experience when the next academic year begins, including in-person instruction, residence hall life, dining options, intercollegiate athletics and student activities.

He said fall planning committees on each campus will use the latest guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Iowa Department of Public Health and others to make "informed, fact-based decisions.

"We do believe we can open our campuses in a safe manner, so that is how we are proceeding," he said. "We know there are many questions, but we want everyone to know these plans are proceeding as quickly as possible."

He said as the universities complete their fall plans, each will share it publicly so everyone "will know what the guidelines are for the fall semester."

The board's top priority remains providing an affordable, accessible, high-quality education for students, Richards said.

2020-21 tuition

The board approved tuition for the 2020-21 year for all students that matches this year's rates. The board could reconsider spring semester tuition depending on circumstances over the next five months. Mandatory fees for ISU students will decrease $4, reflecting a net $4 drop in the student activities fee. Before voting, board members heard comments from student leaders on the three campuses.

Student Government president Morgan Fritz, a junior in political science, told board members students are feeling economic impacts of the world pandemic -- lost jobs and tight family budgets on top of accumulating student debt -- and flat tuition will help keep the regent universities accessible to them.

"Iowa State students thank you, and we appreciate your commitment to our education," she said.

For the benefit of the state's economy, Fritz said state legislators also need to make public higher education a priority as they work through budget cuts in the resumed 2020 session.

"There's a positive return on investment for money spent on higher education," she said, while noting that since 1999, tuition at Iowa State has increased about 160% while state appropriations for public higher education have "effectively frozen."

Eleanor Field, Ph.D. candidate in entomology and president of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate, thanked board members for supporting the state's graduate and professional students. She said access to education is more critical than ever, and the board's decision to not increase tuition "alleviates some of the stresses felt by students in financial uncertainty and may allow many to remain in school."

ISU standard tuition* and mandatory fees: 2020-21






$24, 504




Professional (Vet Med)



*Does not reflect differential tuitions

Regents advisory group

At the board's April 30 meeting, Richards appointed an advisory group to look for efficiency opportunities among the three regent universities. Co-chairs David Barker and Nancy Dunkel are joined by regent colleagues Nancy Boettger and Jim Lindenmayer. On June 4, the board approved appointments to two subgroups that will look at academic and administrative efficiencies, respectively.

"Public higher education was already evolving before COVID-19, but with the added pressure of the pandemic, we must begin to make systemic changes now," Richards said.

Noting Iowa's universities have survived many challenging times in their history, he said the board has a responsibility to make sure the regent universities "remain healthy so they can be here for the next 100 years or more."

The academic subgroup contains the provosts and faculty senate presidents from the three universities, including Iowa State's Jonathan Wickert and associate professor of graphic design Carol Faber, respectively. The senior vice presidents for operations and finance at the three schools, including Iowa State's Pam Cain, comprise the administrative group.

Richards said the advisory group could consider many options, such as:

  • Students from one university taking online classes at another university.
  • Creating new online programs for nontraditional students.
  • Expanding the post-secondary enrollment option for high school students.
  • Consolidating some administrative duties that occur at all three universities.
  • Implementing a moratorium on new construction.
  • Exploring new public-private partnerships.

Its recommendations are due at the board's November meeting.

Boiler replacement

Iowa State received board permission to begin planning a utility project to replace the last two coal-fired boilers in the power plant with natural gas-fired boilers. Three other natural-gas boilers are now four years old. The project includes dismantling coal-handling systems and returning coal pile sites to grassy fields, at an estimated cost of $12 million to $14 million. The conversion is expected to generate annual utility savings of $3.7 million.

Interim senior vice president for operations and finance Pam Cain said the conversion will enhance the value of the campus utility system. She said the university is studying the possibility of a financial partnership with a private utility company to operate the ISU utility system. In December, the board approved a 50-year agreement between the University of Iowa and a French energy firm that is managing its campus utilities.

Salary policy

Iowa State's approximately 1,300 merit employees will receive a 2.1% pay increase on July 1, according to the state's two-year collective bargaining agreement with the Iowa chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Minimums and maximums in the 19 pay grades of the merit system pay plan also will increase 2.1%.

As President Wendy Wintersteen shared with the campus community in an April budget update, Iowa State won't offer performance-based salary increases for faculty, professional and scientific and contract staff, and post-docs for the new fiscal year.

Other Iowa State items

The board also approved Iowa State requests for:

  • A department name change in the Ivy College of Business, from management to management and entrepreneurship, to better represent the department's growing emphasis on entrepreneurship -- in curriculum, degree offerings and faculty specialization. The change took effect immediately.
  • A new degree program in the Graduate College, a master of arts in teaching history, targeting postbaccalaureate students without teacher preparation who want to teach in a K-12 setting. It provides, in a formal structure, the state's prerequisites for licensure to teach history and other social studies subjects at the secondary level. The School of Education and history department offered this preparation on an ad-hoc basis.
  • A 15-foot-wide easement to the city of Ames, extending about a thousand feet along the southeast corner of the Veterinary Medicine campus, for a paved bike path (it's currently gravel) to connect the ISU Research Park to South Fourth Street.