Changes to ISU peer list await regents' approval

Senators learned about proposed changes to the 10 peer institutions Iowa State uses when reporting to the state Board of Regents during the Feb. 14 Faculty Senate meeting.

The original list of peers was made in 1986 and changed just once -- adding Pennsylvania State and removing the University of Arizona. Senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert said it's necessary to update the current list because only one of those peers also lists ISU as a peer.

"All of the current peers are more selective in their admissions than we are because we pride ourselves in opening our doors very widely to students via the Regents Admissions Index," he said. "Most of the schools on the current list have human medical colleges that impact resources available to the university."

The proposed peer institutions include three from the current list in Michigan State University, East Lansing; North Carolina State University, Raleigh and Purdue University, West Lafayette. The new schools are Colorado State University, Fort Collins; Kansas State University, Manhattan; Oklahoma State University, Stillwater; Oregon State University, Corvallis; University of Missouri, Columbia; University of Nebraska, Lincoln and Virginia Polytechnic and State University, Blacksburg.

All 10 are land grants with extension services and Research I universities in the Carnegie classification. Eight list ISU as a peer. The proposed list is subject to final board approval on Feb. 23.

Determining new peers

To help determine the new peer group, executive director of institutional research Karen Zunkel and her staff reviewed numerous quantitative and qualitative factors for an advisory committee of university leaders. Quantitative factors included: STEM enrollment, research expenditures, cost of attendance and fiscal resources. Qualitative factors included: strategic goals, land-grant institutions, innovation focus and whether ISU partners with them in research.

"We started looking at high research, public land-grant institutions," Zunkel said. "That gave us a list of 24, and we started identifying schools similar to Iowa State across a broad range of indicators that are good fits on institutional mission and culture."

ISU ranks in the middle of its proposed group of peers in most measures but remains the most affordable, Wickert said.


In addition to proposed modifications to the board list of peers, Wickert said Iowa State reduced the number of peer institutions in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) from 97 to 29. The list is often used by the Chronicle of Higher Education and publications that rank institutions.

"It gives us a broader perspective than the board list, and we wanted to have some representation from coast to coast," Wickert said.

The 29 peer institutions for IPEDS are the 10 new board peers, the seven institutions removed from the peers list and 12 additional Research I institutions.