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Guest Opinion: Lincoln Project, a promise for renewed commitment to the UI

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Guest Opinion: Lincoln Project, a promise for renewed commitment to the UI


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On Thursday and Friday, we will welcome members of the Lincoln Project to our state to discuss the importance of public research universities to the future of our nation. I am so pleased that one of the leaders of this endeavor — former UI President Mary Sue Coleman — knows our state exceptionally well.

The Lincoln Project meeting will allow local leaders from diverse fields to think creatively and dynamically about the challenges facing public higher education in Iowa. The decline in funding over the past 20 years suggests that our state views public universities as an expense to minimize instead of an asset to leverage. This type of long-term disinvestment is creating accessibility and competitive disadvantages for institutions like the University of Iowa.

This hurts Iowans. Our state is home to one of the top research universities in the nation, and that affords our citizens access to superbly talented professors, groundbreaking research, and state-of-the-art health care. These benefits represent a trust that past Iowans have given to the current generation.

In order to build on this legacy of excellence in education, scholarship, and research, the UI must recruit and retain the best and brightest minds. We must offer competitive salaries and excellent facilities to attract top talent.  Unfortunately, state disinvestment combined with the cheapest tuition in our national peer set makes it impossible to compete.

In fact, Iowa holds a dubious distinction that only 11 states can claim: an absolute reduction in revenue per student taught over the past two and a half decades. This erosion of resources prohibits the UI from delivering on its promise to the alumni, students, and citizens of this state.

Now here is the good news: We are not out of the race yet.

We are Iowans, and we will put our noses to the grindstone to ensure we remain more efficient and effective than our national peers. But that Iowa practicality will only get us so far. We must increase the investment in public higher education to continue our forward momentum.

The UI has developed a strategic plan that will align our current and new resources to provide better outcomes for Iowans in the areas of student success, research and economic development, and outreach and engagement.

Each dollar invested, whether through taxes or tuition, will allow the UI to continue its strong tradition. We are unwavering in our commitment to providing a world-class education to all who come in pursuit of a better quality of life.  In 1847, Iowa based its future on education. It’s time we do so again.

— UI President Bruce Harreld

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