Keeping a campus favorite clean

Man uses power washer on outdoor fountain components

Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Memorial Union operations engineer David Wiese uses a pressure washer inside the Fountain of the Four Seasons during routine maintenance of the central campus icon Monday morning. He and colleague Kevin Stockman complete the task twice a month during fountain season to keep algae under control and the pool clean and to ensure the fountain operates smoothly. Typically, the fountain pool drains overnight, gets cleaned in the morning and the refilling begins in the afternoon to finish during the night.

Two teams share maintenance of the Fountain of the Four Seasons. MU staff maintain the pool, including lights, spouts and piping. University Museums is responsible for maintaining the famed Christian Petersen sculpture portions of the fountain.


Regents confirm fall tuition rates

Meeting about four weeks before fall semester opens, the state Board of Regents unanimously approved a 3.5% tuition increase for the 2021-22 academic year for Iowa State's resident undergraduates and a 3.9% increase for all others. With a package of mandatory student fees that increases $36, the change from last year adds up to:

  • $318 (3.4%) more for resident undergraduates
  • $418 (3.8%) more for resident graduate students
  • $942 (3.8%) more for nonresident undergraduates
  • $982 (3.8%) more for resident professional students in veterinary medicine
  • $1,000 (3.9%) more for nonresident graduate students
  • $2,116 (3.9%) more for nonresident professional students in veterinary medicine

Board president Mike Richards said board members spend a lot of time setting tuition rates. Praising the universities for their efficient operations, he noted that even with cost-cutting, additional resources are necessary to provide a high-quality education. The general operating appropriation has been the same for two years.

"We've always tried to find the right balance, keeping the cost to our students and their families as affordable as possible. Our goal is to provide quality, affordable and accessible education," he said.

Simplifying differential tuition

In 2018-19, Iowa State began a three-year plan to align numerous differential tuitions in two levels, labeled as A and B, to simplify the structure. With last year's tuition freeze, that process will conclude this academic year instead, with one exception. One additional year (2022-23) is needed for a final phase of differential tuition for sophomores in agricultural systems technology, industrial technology and all Engineering programs. The two levels bring some consistency to a differential tuition web that began during the 2006-07 academic year.

Student financial literacy

The board's chief academic officer, Rachel Boon, reported that CashCourse, the module-based financial literacy training all new ISU undergraduates are encouraged to complete during fall semester, won't be available for free starting in fall 2022. All three regent universities use the CashCourse modules. The National Endowment for Financial Education is transferring the modules to the Higher Education Financial Wellness Alliance, which will make the modules available through paid membership. The three universities will decide whether to purchase a membership or build a module system they can share and personalize. The universities "have a lot of in-house expertise" if they choose that option, Boon said.

"Get vaccinated"

During his comments, Richards, a retired medical doctor, encouraged all regent university faculty, staff and students to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

"The data is clear. If you're vaccinated, your chances of infection decrease, and your chances of severe illness or death drop significantly. Almost all hospitalizations for COVID are among the unvaccinated," he said. "It's really quite simple. Get vaccinated."

Gilman Hall renovation

The board approved Iowa State's request to begin planning an estimated $35 million to $40 million modernization of about one-fourth of Gilman Hall, home to the chemistry department and about 15 general university classrooms. The university also received permission to use an alternate delivery method, which can save time and money and better integrate the design and construction phases. Gilman was completed in 1914, and for the last 40 years has received incremental renovations. The goals of this project include: eliminate part of Gilman's $34 million deferred maintenance backlog, create modern research spaces and faculty and graduate student offices for the chemistry department, consolidate research spaces for psychology faculty (who are spread across multiple buildings), upgrade restrooms and common areas, renovate some of the general university classrooms and update the building's infrastructure. As proposed, the work would be done in phases with the intent of keeping the building in use. The project will be funded with private gifts and university funds.

Community college transfer students

Boon also presented an update on community college student transfers to regent universities, a coordinated effort that goes back to 1973 with the first articulation agreement. Since 2008, a website, transferiniowa.org, has consolidated a lot of information about student transfers between Iowa community colleges and regent universities. She said Iowa enjoys first-in-the-nation status for the rate of community college transfers who earn a bachelor's degree. She also noted that, for the most recent year available, 43% of community college transfers to a regent university hadn't completed an associate-level degree.

 

Iowa CC transfer students to a regent university (2019-20 academic year)

Degree

Students

Associate in Arts

1,050 (45%)

Associate in Applied Science

152 (6%)

Associate in Science

137 (6%)

No degree

 

     61+ credits

346 (15%)

     <61 credits

652 (28%)

Total

2,337

 

Other ISU agenda items

The board also approved Iowa State requests to:

  • Appoint assistant vice president for diversity and inclusion and equal opportunity Margo Foreman as interim vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, effective July 17.
  • Begin offering a master of healthcare analytics and operations in the Ivy College of Business this fall. It's a more specific option than the college's master of business analytics, which includes studies in health care, retail, agriculture, manufacturing and other fields.
  • End the master of school mathematic in the math department due to dipping enrollments and faculty retirements, effective immediately.

Helping student-athletes navigate new branding opportunities

As of July 1, a change in NCAA regulations allows student-athletes to financially benefit from their name, image and likeness (NIL). The new opportunities offer the potential for both compensation and education, faculty athletics representative Tim Day told the state Board of Regents at its July 28 meeting.

As Iowa State student-athletes take advantage of their personal brand, they also will gain valuable business lessons, with guidance and support from the university. For instance, Day said, the prospect of capitalizing on NIL can dovetail with the robust campus programming to encourage student entrepreneurship.

"Previously, student-athletes had some limitations on their ability to participate in entrepreneurial activities. Now their appetite is whet by the new opportunities they have, and we need to marry them with existing resources we have on campus. That's win-win," he said.  

Making deals that depend on their image also requires student-athletes to consider their public persona, which in large part depends on social media presence.  

"There's no bad side to our student-athletes or any student starting to think today about how they present themselves on social media affects their lives and the way people perceive them -- maybe their employment opportunities in the future," he said.

Support areas

An ISU working group including coaches, administrators, compliance staff, university counsel, students and faculty began studying NIL long ago, knowing the rules eventually would change to allow student-athletes to benefit from their personal brands. The working group identified four areas for additional support: entrepreneurial education, brand management, reviewing and understanding contracts, and reporting requirements for NCAA compliance and tax purposes.

Athletics staff will present an overview of issues surrounding NIL to all 450 student-athletes at the start of the year as part of the department's annual orientation programming, and entrepreneurship programs already in place can help provide student-athletes with additional guidance in that area, Day said.

The athletics department issued a request for proposals for a third-party vendor that can offer student-athletes guidance on personal brand management, social media influencing and understanding contracts. The proposals are under review, Day said.

While the RFP also included a function to serve reporting and compliance needs, the athletics department built its own system for students to report NIL activity, as required by the NCAA. Day said it's going well and may continue to be used instead of an external provider.

Compliance questions

Along with representatives from the athletics departments at the universities of Iowa and Northern Iowa, Day outlined Iowa State NIL support plans for the regents and took questions on the topic. Some board members asked about potential compliance problems.  

Student-athletes are allowed to hire professional service providers such as agents and attorneys to represent their NIL interests, and NIL payments can't be recruitment inducements or be based on performance.

Day said in his conversations with student-athletes, he's been impressed with how they've thought through NIL issues.

"I think our student-athletes are savvier than most of us might think," he said. "They were pretty aware of what the landscape looks like out there."


FY22 budget contains additional revenue, reallocations

Iowa State's fiscal year 2022 operating budget, approved this week by the state Board of Regents, includes $21.9 million in additional revenue over last year's budget. Impacted general fund units are expected to reallocate an estimated $10.3 million in savings from the retirement incentive option (RIO) program, to increased expenses and their priorities. FY22 began July 1 and concludes June 30, 2022.

The incremental revenue includes an estimated $16.7 million more in tuition due to rate increases the board approved July 28, $1.9 million more in cost recovery on research, $1 million in interest income on university investments and just over $2 million in state appropriations for specific purposes.

Pie chart: General fund revenues

This year's operating budget for general fund units, $722.7 million, is about 3% larger than the budget a year ago.

Top priorities for the new revenue and reallocations this year are:

  • 2.1% salary increases for all eligible faculty, professional and scientific and merit staff, post docs and contract employees, $13.3 million
  • New contract for university police officers, $1.2 million
  • Additional aid to students, $4 million

New funds also will be used to cover other needs:

  • Differential tuition investments to their higher-cost academic programs, $3.8 million
  • Unavoidable cost increases (for example, software licenses and insurance), $3 million
  • Opening new buildings: Additions to Gerdin, Seed Science and Veterinary Medicine Field Services, fifth floor of the Advanced Teaching and Research Building for the Nanovaccine Institute, $900,000
  • Higher directed appropriations to the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (VDL), Cooperative Extension and biosciences platforms, $2 million

As announced in June, units have the discretion to award an additional salary increase to faculty, professional and scientific staff, postdocs and contract employees for exceptional work performance. These increases would be covered by department or unit dollars.

The successful RIO program, additional revenue, availability of federal relief funds to cover some pandemic costs and stronger-than anticipated trends in both student enrollment and research activity led senior leaders to cancel the second part of a planned 5% annual across-the-board budget reduction for FY22 announced in April 2020.

State operating and buildings support

The biosciences innovation appropriation more than tripled (to $2.6 million) this year to provide additional research support for the three platforms at Iowa State, including a chief technology officer for each platform (biobased products, precision and digital agriculture and vaccines and immunotherapies). The University of Iowa administers the fourth platform, medical devices. Cooperative Extension will receive an additional $150,000 (less than 1% of last year's appropriation) to host a national conference in 2023 for county agricultural agents, and the VDL's appropriation will increase $62,472 for operational support to keep up with the demand for its services. Its caseload doubled in the last seven years. The increase restores the cut the VDL absorbed last year in the Legislature's $8 million appropriation reduction to the regent universities.

The largest state appropriation, for general operation of the university, remains unchanged from a year ago, $172.1 million, but has steadily declined since FY10, when it was $184 million.

President Wendy Wintersteen outlined some key needs made more challenging by the decline in state support:

  • Competitive salaries so Iowa State can keep talented employees
  • Cost to implement needed technology
  • Backlog of deferred maintenance
  • Competition for nonresident students, driven by nearby states investing more in student scholarships
  • Residual costs of COVID-19

RIO savings

Wintersteen told the board the RIO would save an estimated $42 million over its three-year span, including $14.6 million across the university this fiscal year. A total of 318 employees participated.

Overall budget

Iowa State's overall budget is nearly $1.57 billion, an increase of $166.5 million over last year, when auxiliary unit activities were greatly reduced by the pandemic. A large piece of the increase comes from allocating the remaining $76 million in federal and state COVID stimulus funds Iowa State has received since spring 2020.

Totaling $844.8 million this year, the restricted side of the budget includes sponsored research, endowment income, building projects and self-funded auxiliary units such as athletics, residence, dining, printing, parking, utilities, recreation services, bookstore, Thielen Student Health Center, Reiman Gardens, Iowa State Center and the Memorial Union.

The restricted budget also includes state appropriations for building projects. Iowa State will receive previously approved state funds for two key facilities. The 2021 Legislature confirmed:

  • $11.375 million for the Student Innovation Center, year six of an adjusted seven years of support
  • $12.5 million for the VDL, year four of six years of support

Employee memberships are a new push for recreation services

To help serve students better, recreation services wants to serve more faculty and staff.

The importance of faculty and staff well-being, and the impact it has on students, is clearer and more urgent than ever, said recreation services director Mike Giles.

“From the president on down, there’s been a big push to improve overall employee well-being, especially since the pandemic,” he said. "If our faculty and staff are healthy and well, that will improve the experiences of our students. We're able to be more attuned to our jobs. The ultimate goal is student success."

Because it's focused on students, recreation services has never made a sustained intentional appeal to faculty and staff, Giles said -- though the unit’s programming and facilities always have been available to employees who opt to join as members.

That's changing now. Recreation services and ISU WellBeing are collaborating on a new staff position focused on faculty and staff outreach, and membership fees for ISU employees have been restructured to provide a greater incentive to join, Giles said. The annual fee for faculty and staff is now $350, less than $30 a month if paid in full upfront.

"We felt it was time to implement some strategies to support faculty and staff well-being," he said.

The not-yet-filled new staff position will work to educate employees about recreational opportunities and design programming specific to faculty and staff needs, Giles said. That could involve customized membership options, such as a "walker" plan that provides indoor track access during the winter, or incorporating recreation services offerings in ISU WellBeing's Adventure 2 program.

"It’s not just about lifting weights. It’s about finding those avenues that lead to better well-being," he said.

Before the pandemic, about 600 faculty and staff were recreation services members, Giles said. The goal is to increase that number, though there's no specific target.

Membership provides access to State GymBeyer Hall and Lied Recreation Athletic Center -- which includes two indoor pools, four indoor tracks, climbing walls and boulders, more than 200 pieces of cardio and strength equipment, cycling studio, steam room, and courts for basketball, volleyball and racquetball. Employee members also can take unlimited group fitness classes, get deals on outdoor equipment rentals and are eligible for intramural competitions.

During family hours (weekends noon-6 p.m. in the fall and spring semesters, any time during academic breaks), supervised children can use the facilities with a member for $2 per visit. Employee spouses and adult dependents are eligible for memberships as affiliates, though the rate is slightly higher and they first must purchase an ISU Card.

If paying the annual fee in full, employees can join online. To set up a monthly payroll deduction, visit the administrative office at 1180 State Gym.


Unexpected enrollment, benefits changes bolstered a bleak COVID year budget

Stronger-than-projected fall and spring enrollments, a successful experiment with winter session and steady research activity helped turn the tide on a university operating budget for the fiscal year that ended June 30 and started with an estimated $41 million shortfall last July.

A tuition freeze, $3.2 million decrease in state operating support, an anticipated $2.5 million less in interest income on university investments and anticipated losses ($2.2 million) in indirect cost reimbursements due to a scaled-back research enterprise were outcomes of much uncertainty in the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic. But researchers persisted and reimbursed costs held steady, and students enrolled at a higher pace than anticipated. The 2020 winter session pilot, not yet in the picture last July, enrolled 2,140 mostly upper division undergraduates and brought in $3.6 million in tuition revenue. By year's end, a projected $33.4 million loss in tuition revenue for the year turned out to be closer to a $13 million deficit, and the estimated $41 million revenue gap was closer to $19 million.

"We saw resiliency in our students to continue or complete their educations," said Bonnie Whalen, associate vice president for institutional financial strategy who leads ISU's budget management team. "Our FY21 budget was built at a time of great uncertainty, in the early months of the pandemic. We didn't see the level of enrollment reductions we thought we could."

Strategic decisions paid off

"We're grateful to the campus community for its patience during a difficult budget year," said senior vice president for operations and finance Pam Cain. "The changes we implemented, some temporarily, some permanently, helped reduce expenses to better align with our reduced revenue."

Last summer President Wendy Wintersteen announced a series of strategies aimed at closing the gap between revenue and expenses for FY21. They involved everything from the university's first retirement incentive program in a decade to the president refusing 10% of her own salary. Below are a few others:

  • A temporary reduction to the university's TIAA/VALIC retirement match by 2 percentage points, from Sept. 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021.
  • Changes to the health and dental insurance plans that increased employee premiums and co-payments on office visits and prescription drugs.
  • Salary and benefit savings due to a recruiting hold on noncritical faculty and staff vacancies from March 24, 2020, through June 30, 2021.

Whalen said budget units also achieved operational savings because of reduced or canceled travel, equipment purchases, space improvement projects and other activities during the year.

One of the most impactful strategies was the retirement incentive option (RIO) program under which 318 employees retired from the university and selected a benefits option for two or three years. However, due to payouts of accrued vacation hours and the fact a large number of employees retired on the last available date, June 30, Whalen said the RIO didn't result in net savings in FY21. The projected savings in the new fiscal year is $10.3 million among general fund units and another $4.3 million in other units. Units impacted by the program will reallocate their savings to priorities.

Federal relief funds

In three rounds, March 2020 and 2021 and December 2020, Iowa State received nearly $112 million in federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF) for pandemic-related expenses and lost revenues. While 45% of it ($50.6 million) is for direct aid to students -- $21.7 million of which has been awarded -- the remaining $61.3 million is intended to help the university cover an estimated $11 million in additional costs and millions in lost revenue since March 2020. Another pandemic cost was refunds to students -- residence, dining, courses, parking -- totaling about $15.3 million and paid last summer at the end of the 2020 fiscal year. Whalen said her budget team is working to make the best use of HEERF funds, a $547,688 grant from the state Department of Education (also sourced from congressional funds), and Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursements. The first priority will be to cover additional costs and the student refunds, she said. The goal is to complete that puzzle-pieces process by late fall.


Online department directory to sunset this year

The university's online department directory will be discontinued at the end of the calendar year, a change recommended by the Technology Enterprise Advisory Committee. The individual directory information will not be affected.

The individual directory is populated by data in ISU's Workday and student information systems, but the department listings are manually maintained. Michael Lohrbach, director of enterprise services and customer success in information technology services, said there isn't an option for automatic updates to the department directory, which operates on an outdated system. Analytics show the department list gets less than 2% of the online directory traffic.

Alternative sources

Department and unit websites can be found using the search box on the ISU homepage. Most also are listed in ISU's online alphabetical index. A list of frequent contacts, such as colleges and divisions, is available via the "Contact Us" link in the directory website footer.

"Websites generally provide a more current information source. We did some sampling -- looking at what was in the university directory versus what the departments had on their web pages -- and we found quite a few inconsistencies," Lohrbach said.

Website updates

Lohrbach encourages departments and units to keep their websites updated. For a consistent user experience across university sites, a general phone number should be included in the website footer.

Detailed information about who to contact within departments and units also can be included on "contact us" or "about" pages.