Regents vote to ask lawmakers for $15M increase for state universities

By: - September 16, 2021 12:31 pm

The campanile is a symbol of Iowa State University and is located on central campus. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

The Iowa Board of Regents on Thursday approved a request to increase state aid by $15 million for the three state universities.

The proposal would provide a $7 million increase for general education to Iowa State University and $4 million each to University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa. The proposal would take effect in fiscal year 2023, which starts July 1, 2022.

Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen, speaking at the Regents’ meeting, emphasized the need for an increase in state aid.

“Without an increase in state support, we will continue to be challenged to retain our excellent faculty and staff with competitive salaries. Increasing inflation for supplies and services is also a concern,” Wintersteen said.

She said ISU is also “in dire need of technology updates” costing tens of millions of dollars and faces a backlog of deferred maintenance and costs related to COVID-19.

UI seeks ‘modest’ increase

University of Iowa President Barbara Wilson said the “modest” proposed $4 million in increase would be aimed at expanding support for students, including expanding academic advising, hiring and retaining mental health professionals. The increase would also be used to expand financial aid and support services for students in high-demand fields such as computer sciences, teaching, financial advising and engineering.

While it’s unusual for University of Iowa to seek a smaller increase than Iowa State, Wilson also pointed to a total of $3 million in requested increases for specific university facilities. The request includes a $1 million increase for building, utility and maintenance needs at the university’s Oakdale Campus and $1 million for the State Hygienic Laboratory for staff compensation, staff retention and recruitment, updated lab instruments, and insurance maintenance contracts for critical equipment. The university’s Flood Center and Family Practice Program would each receive a $500,000 increase.

University of Northern Iowa President Mark Nook said the increase would be focused on improving access to students, 90% of whom come from Iowa.

“With the $4 million increase that we are requesting, we make a commitment to hold our tuition flat and to be able to then provide a better level of access for the students across the state of Iowa,” he said.

Requests for other facilities

The Board of Regents’ request also includes a $355,000 increase for the Iowa School for the Deaf and Iowa’s Educational Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. The total increase, which also includes economic development funds and agricultural and natural resources appropriations, would be just over $22 million, for a total appropriation of $638.6 million.

The Legislature this year provided no increase in state aid for the universities. The Regents responded by increasing tuition for residential students 3.5% for the two larger universities and 1.5% at UNI. Non-residential and graduate and professional students also saw tuition increases.

In 2020, lawmakers cut the appropriation for universities by $8 million.

The board unanimously approved the budget request, which will be considered when the Legislature convenes in January.

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Kathie Obradovich
Kathie Obradovich

Editor Kathie Obradovich has been covering Iowa government and politics for more than 30 years, most recently as political columnist and opinion editor for the Des Moines Register. She previously covered the Iowa Statehouse for 10 years for newspapers in Davenport, Waterloo, Sioux City, Mason City and Muscatine. She is a leading voice on Iowa politics and makes regular appearances on state, national and international news programs. She has led national-award-winning coverage of the Iowa Caucuses and the Register’s Iowa Poll.