Regents to consider spring tuition increase for resident undergrads

The state Board of Regents will discuss a 3 percent tuition increase for spring 2016 semester for resident undergraduate students when it meets via telephone next week. The increase would raise spring tuition $100 for most Iowa State resident undergraduates; up to $133 for programs with previously approved differential tuitions. If approved, it would raise an estimated $1.65 million in additional revenue for Iowa State. A final decision won't come until the board's Sept. 9 meeting.

Audio of the public portions of the Aug. 5 meeting (11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.) will be streamed live on the board's website. Initially scheduled to originate from the board office in Urbandale, the meeting has been moved to room 4, ground floor of the Scheman Building. 

In December, the board approved a third straight tuition freeze for resident undergraduates, while approving increases ranging from 1.2 percent to 3.2 percent for all other students. The freeze anticipated the Legislature's support for the regents' proposed performance-based funding model, which didn't occur. In fact, new state dollars in the three public universities' operating budgets total about one-tenth what the increases were a year ago.

The diminished state appropriations, coupled with three years of frozen tuition for resident undergraduates – which make up just over half of ISU's student body – "puts a significant strain on education operating budgets," board staff noted.

If approved, the increase would reestablish base tuition for ISU's resident undergraduates at $6,848.

Student Innovation Center

Iowa State will seek the board's permission to select a design professional and proceed with planning for the Student Innovation Center, a proposed $80 million, 175,000-square-foot facility to be built south of Sweeney Hall. The site was selected for its proximity to undergraduate academic programs. The building will feature classrooms and flexible spaces that allow students to experiment, innovate and investigate across the academic disciplines.

The project will be funded equally by private gifts ($40 million) and state appropriations ($40 million over four years, FY17-20, approved by the 2015 Legislature).

To create space for the new building, the university will request permission to demolish the Nuclear Engineering Laboratory and the south portion of the original Sweeney Hall.

Cremation garden for ISU cemetery

Iowa State would like to sign a five-year agreement with the company Fans4Ever to design, construct and market a columbarium and garden adjacent to the east side of the university cemetery. A cremation garden responds to two needs: the alumni association has received requests from alumni and friends to bury cremated remains on campus, and, at the current interment rate, available spaces in the cemetery could be filled in five years. Rules about who may use the cremation garden will be set by the university; an early estimated cost per niche is around $6,000. The project would not proceed until there were enough presales to cover the development costs.

Facilities corporation

Iowa State leaders also will seek board permission to, in cooperation with the ISU Foundation, set up a nonprofit ISU Facilities Corporation to finance large building projects when cash funds or state appropriations are not available and the usual regent-issued bonds not appropriate for the project. Unlike the regents' academic revenue bonds or enterprise bonds, which use tuition and fees for service, respectively, to repay the debt, the facilities corporation bonds would use other sources – for example, private gifts or income from sponsored research – to pay off the bonds.

Senior vice president for business and finance Warren Madden said a facilities corporation is a funding vehicle that would give the university some flexibility to build and pay for large facilities, particularly those with a research focus. The corporation would own a building until the bonds are repaid, with the university as tenant and the board as lessee. The corporation's first bond issue, an estimated $20 million for the Advanced Teaching and Research Building, would occur in 2016.

The ISU Foundation's board approved the concept in June. The University of Iowa has had a facilities corporation since 1967 that has financed numerous research facilities on that campus.

Other requests

In other action, it's anticipated that the board will:

  • Approve Iowa State's purchase of an Aberration-Corrected Scanning Transmission Electron Microscope ($3.66 million) for the nearly completed Sensitive Instrument Facility at the Applied Sciences Complex. Funding sources include university general funds, the College of Engineering and Ames Laboratory.
  • Approve budgets for the fiscal year that began July 1. Iowa State's operating budget is a proposed $675 million; its total budget, including restricted funds and auxiliary units, is just under $1.4 billion.
  • Approve a 20-year lease between the board and the ISU Research Park Corp. for about 17,000 square feet on the first and second floors of the 42,000-square-foot Hub Square Facility scheduled for completion next year. The research park will own the building and Iowa State will reimburse construction costs up to $12 million (the amount of the 2013 state appropriation for the facility and considered a prepaid base rent for the first 20 years.) Iowa State will pay its share of operating costs. Key ISU tenants include CyBiz, Pappajohn Center, Iowa Small Business Development Center, Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations, Center for Industrial Research and Service, Office of Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer and the ISU Research Foundation.
  • Appoint Mark Braun, University of Iowa vice president for operational efficiency and regulatory analysis, as interim chief operating officer for the board of regents, effective Aug. 5. Braun served as the TIER (Transparent Inclusive Efficiency Review) project manager in the board office from August 2014 to April. Under a proposed change in organizational structure for the board staff, executive director Robert Donley would serve as the regents' chief executive officer. A chief academic officer and a chief operating officer would oversee separate functional areas but report to the executive director. Currently all staff report directly to Donley.
  • Approve salaries for the fiscal year that began July 1 for heads of the regent institutions and Donley. Their performance evaluations were completed in June.