State grants assist eligible students in targeted degree programs

Meeting June 14 in Iowa City, the state Board of Regents approved a list of bachelor's degree programs that train students for a set of high-demand jobs developed by Iowa Workforce Development to meet criteria in a piece of spring legislation (Senate File 560, Division VI). The 2023 Iowa Legislature created the Iowa Workforce Grant and Incentive Program, funded with a $6.5 million education appropriation, to encourage the state's public university students to pursue degrees that prepare them for high-demand jobs in the state. Using a matching process, board staff determined that Iowa State offers 69 unique degree programs that fit the criteria. The universities of Iowa and Northern Iowa offer 48 and 59 unique degree programs, respectively, that align with the high-demand jobs list.

The State Workforce Board also must approve the list of degree programs, and the Iowa College Aid Commission will implement the program, working with financial aid offices at the three universities. Beginning this fall, eligible students (including a demonstrated financial need) can receive $2,000 grants for up to three semesters, and an additional $2,000 payment if they accept a high-demand job aligned with their major within six months of graduation.

Tuition and fees increases

The regents unanimously approved increases to tuition and mandatory student fees for the 2023-24 academic year. At Iowa State, resident undergraduates will see a 3.5% increase ($304), and nonresident undergraduates and all graduate students will see a 4% increase. Professional students -- those enrolled in the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program -- will see tuition increases of 3.8% (nonresidents) to 5% (resident students).

All Iowa State students will pay an additional $60 (4.1%) next year in mandatory fees, bringing total fees to at least $1,515. Students in specific programs pay a higher technology fee.

Student leaders from the three regent campuses had a chance to address the increases prior to the board vote.

Senior Jennifer Holliday, vice president of ISU student government, said solutions other than tuition hikes are necessary to solve the problem of the growing cost of a college education. She noted tuition has "continually increased since the turn of the century" while state support stagnated. The state risks running short on qualified workers for careers demanding a degree because fewer can afford college, she said.

Holliday pledged ISU student support to board members' efforts during the 2024 legislative session "to secure increased allocations from the state." Increasing tuition and fees is a short-term fix, she said, not a viable, long-term solution for the state's public university students.

Doctoral student Christine Cain, president of ISU's Graduate and Professional Student Senate, said rising tuition negatively impacts the diversity in the student body. It also puts pressure on graduates to chase the highest salary possible to whittle away at their debt, and that often means leaving Iowa.

She asked board members and university leaders to work together to explore alternative revenue options and pledged graduate student assistance for the task.

Clinical services incentive for Vet Med faculty

The board approved the College of Veterinary Medicine's request to add three years to a year-old pilot program intended to grow and expand veterinary clinical services offered to the state and region while financially rewarding the faculty who provide the veterinary medical doctor portion of the services. All faculty (tenured, tenure-track and term) who meet eligibility criteria may participate in the Veterinary Clinical Services Incentive Plan, which pays them 25% of the specific portion of professional fees generated from their time and expertise in the college's four service units (Lloyd Veterinary Medical Center, Veterinary Pathology, Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and Veterinary Field Services). Payments will be made twice a year (January and July) and faculty may earn up to 20% of their base university salary. College leaders believe the program will be a useful tool for recruitment and retention.

Veterinary medicine faculty may participate in this program and the university's Faculty Incentive Salary Increment Program (which rewards high research grant volume) at the same time, though the combined incentive payments can't exceed 20% of their annual salary.

Vet Med building: Patterson Hall

The board approved the college's request to name part of the Vet Med complex for alumnus Frederick Douglass Patterson. Building areas included in Patterson Hall are the primary academic centers, classrooms, college administrative and academic department offices, research labs, library, main entrance and adjacent common spaces. It excludes the Lloyd Veterinary Medical Center and nearby facilities on the Vet Med campus: the new Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, Veterinary Field Services building and Veterinary Medicine Research Institute. This year, the college is celebrating the centennial of Patterson's graduation with the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine 1923 class.

Wintersteen compensation

Following its annual performance evaluation of President Wendy Wintersteen, board president Michael Richards announced a new employment contract for her covering July 1, 2023, through June 30, 2026. In June 2019, the board extended her contract through the end of this month. She has served as president since November 2017.

The board also established a fourth deferred compensation plan for Wintersteen that begins July 1 and ends Dec. 31, 2025, with an annual contribution of $415,000. The first two plans conclude June 30 and will pay her a combined $733,333. The third one, a $40,000 annual contribution for two fiscal years, pays $80,000 if she's still serving as president on June 30, 2024.

Wintersteen's salary will remain at $650,000 for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Other ISU business

The regents also approved Iowa State requests to:

  • End the bachelor of science degree in biophysics, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, due to low student interest, effective immediately. Students still can choose a biophysics specialization in the biochemistry B.S. degree. No faculty positions will be eliminated.
  • Combine board-approved remodeling projects for the second and third floors of the Memorial Union into a single project with one contractor and construction schedule. The consolidation doesn't change the project budget of $6.55 million. Work will begin this summer and conclude in August 2024.

Oversight moves for K-12 deaf, blind student services

The June meeting marked the end of the board's oversight of the Iowa School for the Deaf and Iowa Educational Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, both based in Council Bluffs. They had been part of the state Board of Regents' umbrella since 1953, but in Gov. Kim Reynolds' reorganization of state government, they'll become part of the Department of Education on July 1. Interim superintendent of both services John Cool cited more than 40 years of examples of board members personally stepping up to advocate for the services and the students served, and shared his concern he won't have those advocates after July 1.

"I thank you on behalf of our students, families and all of our employees," he said. "People can be leaders without being supportive, but you have really supported us. And you have an incredible staff in the board office."