The Daily Iowan: In addition to the Alcohol Reduction Plan announced earlier this year, what else is the administration doing to address high-risk drinking?
UI President Bruce Harreld: I’ve been around long enough on college campuses to know that if it’s just the administration, the probability it’s going to have a positive impact and be owned by students is relatively low. So I think I’d rather broaden the question, which is what dialogues are we having with the students, and what else might we want to do, and what we support. I think at the end of the day this needs to be student-led … I think we have to take a serious look at our Orientation Program, and are we doing enough as people join our campus? I think it also raised the question of what are we doing beyond orientation — because every year maybe we need to have some deeper conversations about this. We also have transfer students, as well as graduate students, and it’s raising the question of how we can help them. If they aren’t a first-year incoming student, they don’t get into our orientations, so we’re missing a large portion of our community. So I think some of it is education, I think the article you folks had today [May 4], the editorial, I really agree with. We shouldn’t be bearing it, we need to be talking about it, addressing it, confronting it. And the more we do that, hopefully, the more awareness, and the safer the campus will be … It’s not just campus, this is maybe a societal issue. I don’t believe drinking is just a greek issue. I don’t think it’s just a university issue. I think maybe it’s a societal issue. So I, we’re, really open for a lot of different activities here, and I think over the summer those conversations [with student leaders] will take place so we’ll see where the students want to go.”
DI: As we move forward, is there anything you can say that might influence the greek community to continue acknowledgement of the drinking issue within the community, like the recent announcement to ban out-of-town formals?
Harreld: “I think we ought to talk about transparency. And maybe that’s the way to get through this … My experience in life is, anytime any of us individually have issues and we try to hide them, it ends up usually making the problem worse. It may be a topic worth exploring as a community … If [greek leaders] need any encouragement, I’d be glad to provide it. I think these are tough conversations. Often in life we don’t like to say we’re anything less than perfect, but all of us are. And part of life is learning how to grow from these experiences.”
DI: Regarding the plans to merge the UI Foundation and Alumni Association, there’s been some pushback initially, but what have your conversations been like now?
Harreld: “I’m not even so sure I fully understand the pushback you’re referring to, but we’ve been working on this for over a year. And based on that, I then said let’s move ahead, let’s move ahead aggressively, and asked them to form a series of work streams on areas we had not yet explored, and said pick one leader, put it in place, and said by sometime this summer, let’s actually bring these work streams together and figure out what is next.
I think by and large, there was a lot of confusion, which is understandable. They offset both the foundation as well as the employees and Alumni Association … It may be my background, which is here’s the business guy trying to come in and actually reduce costs, and so it took a little while for me to get everyone to understand we’re doing this to save jobs, I’m doing this for efficiency, we’re doing this for effectiveness.
And we’ve got a large number of alumni out there, and the Alumni Association touches somewhere between 11 and 20 percent of them, depending on how you count the numbers, and we need to go much, much deeper. And by the way, why are our relationships just with alumni? We have a lot of other friends beyond graduates of the institution.
So in that broader context, I said we could actually fundraise — and as the Alumni Association says, “friend raise” — at the same time and there’s a very consistent process.
There are a number of institutions that do the same thing. So I’ve now met several times with the Alumni Association, I’ve met several times with the board of the University of Iowa Foundation, and I think by and large everybody is beginning to see the merits of this, and I think are actively working on the various work streams of how that will occur. I think there are some people who still are trying to protect the past, and that’s just natural. It’s part of the change process. So I think we’re up and running, I think we’re going to get through this quite nicely. And as I say, other institutions have gone through the same thing.
DI: There have been some newly elected regents leaders. How do you plan on working with them to help advocate for funding for Iowa education?
Harreld: We already have. It’s not a plan. In all respects, I actually knew the incoming regents. I haven’t worked with them that closely yet, but I have met them — Mike Richards, who’s the new president, the new pro tem, and Patty Cownie. I’ve worked with them for the last year and a half, two years, so I know them quite well.
We’ve already had the two new regents on campus for a whole day. I spent the whole day with them, and took them around the various new buildings as well as old buildings. Took them to meet student leaders. Went and had lunch in the cultural center. So it was a long day with both of them where we actually talked about the issues we face, like academic issues, building issues and such. They just got elected on Monday, and we’re talking here on Thursday, so Mike and I have already had four telephonic meetings already. I don’t think we’re going to miss a beat. It’s going to be easy.
DI: So you told the regents at their February meeting about your hopes to increase tuition at the UI to be more on par with the average of its peer groups, and you also kind of discussed that the last time you met with the DI. Given that plan, what are your thoughts on the possibility of a summer tuition increase?
Harreld: You mean tuition for next year? Not just the summer time? I’m thinking it’s pretty high. I’m asking that we come forward — there’s two things I think we need to put into context. One is, and I think you’ve seen all of it, and I have some data I can share to show where we stand nationally relative to our peers. Hopefully, I’ve made the case that we’re woefully under-resourced, both on state appropriations and in tuition. The more they take state appropriations down, the more pressure it puts on the tuition side. That dynamic — we’re the fifth-lowest in the 50 states. We’re pretty low on this, so we have some real issues if we’re going to remain competitive in quality and in teaching, support for students as well as research.
I have pushed aggressively with a plan to get this institution where it needs to be, which is excellence in a lot of different areas, and we’re going to need to compete with what’s going on with our peers. That means we need to get tuition up or state of appropriations. It’s pretty clear to me, in this political climate, that we’re not going to get state appropriations up — we just got a cut for $16 million — so that puts the pressure on tuition. It’s a five-year effort, and I think you can anticipate every year in the next five years, we will need to continue to push tuition up.
In our peer group, 2.5 to 3 percent is the low range, from what I hear. The high range is 4.5 to 5 percent. So we’re competing with that group.
Having said that, we also need to understand that when we take tuition up, we’re going to put a hardship more and more on our families and students. So we also need to take our student financial aid up so we can help support those who have need. That’s where we are, and I’m going to advocate for that pretty aggressively here in the next few weeks. But you should also know that I’m advocating for that for the long term. I think you’ve seen this sort of view, which is the state of Iowa since 1961. The percentage of the tax base, since 1961, has been about 6.5 percent. We got up to about 12 percent. Since 1991, it’s been in continual decline — I don’t have 2017 on here, but it’s below where it was in 1961.
That context, that’s just a portion of the picture. That’s just state appropriations. If you look at it and add tuition, per student, out of the last 25 years in all states, we’re fifth from the bottom.
Look at it another way, there are 39 states where they’ve taken tuition up more rapidly to compensate for de-appropriation for their state. Some states, like Delaware, Alabama, Nebraska, Arkansas, have done so pretty aggressively. We’re one of the few states, out of 11, over that 25-year period where our appropriations has gone down, per student, and our tuition hasn’t compensated enough. So we’re negative, and that’s pretty severe. People ask about overhead, and ours is pretty low, relative to our peer group. We’re at 6.1 percent, here at this institution, versus our peers — the regents ask us to benchmark at 7.6 [percent].
If you look at the Big Ten — and they aren’t all in our peer group; Purdue isn’t in our peer group, for example — it’s even a little bit higher. Then you look at our tuitions, and we’re at the bottom of our peer group. And we like to say in Iowa that we’re not as wealthy. That’s not quite true. There are other states in our peer group that, on a per-household basis, are actually not as well off as we are.
Now, what that also says is we can’t be larger than the state, that we have to stay the right size. We’re never going to be Ohio State. There are more citizens in Ohio. So we have a right size, and we’re putting a ceiling on our growth. We are where we’re going to be.
But within that, we need to remix the support, and then if you wanted to see, here are some colleges, and everything that’s red on here says that all these faculty are at the bottom third of their peer’s compensation. This, by the way, was a year after we had salary increases. This is a competitive market. Here are just one set of rankings. This is the AAU and how they look at us. I would say in 2010, which is way up here, we were in the 50th percentile in roughly all of these metrics. This fall, when they sent me the data, we had fallen to the 25th percentile.
This is the game we’re playing. This is the fight that we’ve got. We need more resources, and a good portion of that will go toward supporting students. Better mentoring. You know of the counseling services that we’re expanding. We’ve already done that. Can’t hire them fast enough. The Living Learning Centers. So we’re in the big leagues, and we need the resources to compete.
DI: Bruce Rastetter announced at the last Board of Regents meeting that tuition would most likely increase 5 percent now, instead of the initial 2 percent. What are your thoughts on it increasing in the summer?
Harreld: Well, we are where we are. In a sense, I think the timing is lousy, that the state appropriations come through after we’ve actually raised. If you take a look at what we have in the map, we’ve raised tuition, and the state took the money, in a sense, and here we are. I think the timing is lousy, I completely agree. On the other hand, we have a 2 percent increase already baked into next year, and we’re going to take it up as close to 3 percent more, and maybe even a little higher, for out-of-state students and some other places pretty quickly …
As I look at the numbers, it’s not, no one’s approved this, but by looking at what needs to happen to stay competitive, and to get us out of some of the issues I just described, we need to be looking at sort of 5 to 5.5, maybe 6 percent tuition increase on an ongoing basis. Part of that is the league we’re competing with is going from the 2 to 3, to the 3 to the 4.5, 5 that I described, so that’s going to continue to raise. So that’s playing catch up as well.
DI: Prior to Provost Butler’s departure from the UI, he directed deans to conduct a study on the UI’s 2020 Academic Organizational Structure. Can you discuss that study, and what implications it’ll have for the organization of the university? How might this reorganization be necessary because of the reduction in appropriations?
Harreld: At least in my mind, it doesn’t have anything to do with appropriations. It’s not an economic-related issue. It’s an issue that I think, you’d have to check me on this, because I don’t have all the history, but I think over the last 20 years our academic structure hasn’t changed at all. And yet a number of other institutions have continued to evolve theirs. So the question is, is ours perfect, right now, for the 21st century? I think that’s what Barry was trying to poke at. And he was asking the question, why doesn’t a group of deans go off and do some initial work to get a discussion going on where might be the points on where we should explore different, more creative ways. An awful lot of what’s going on, and I’m really seeing this, is where we have our — what I call our home rooms. We have colleges and departments, so we have a structure in place. But an awful lot of the work we’re doing, particularly from a research perspective, is actually more across. And you see that with the neuroscience center we just announced, which spans from the medical side of neuroscience to psychiatry to nursing to social workers to psychology, and boy, that just cut about four or five colleges … so it’s begging the question. You can do the same thing in simulation. You can do the same thing in so many other areas. One dimension is might there be a better clustering of our units; You see organic chemistry taught in CLAS (College of Liberal Arts & Sciences), you also see it taught with our medical students. You also see math in class and with engineering. So we have a tension in here and I think we’re asking the question might a different structure make sense? None of that, I don’t believe, has anything to do with less resources. I think there is another question – class is another large portion of the total. Within it, it has sciences, it has a group of humanities, and it has a group of performing arts. And actually, might they be better on their own? And actually you can see the beauty in some of the things, particularly performing arts. So it’s begging those types of questions. I think there’s another issue that leads to the graduate college. Last week I was in Washington D.C. for two days for a meeting with the AAU. And the public and privates, the major resource institutions, and one issue of conversation that comes up over and over again, is what’s the role of a graduate college in the 21st century? Because the master’s degrees, and the PHD degrees, research and dissertation work are often down within a specific department: chemistry, languages, the arts. And that’s part of another college structure. And then we have a graduate college. And what’s the graduate college? Is it an administrative role? What’s a support mechanism? How do we train TA’s and RA’s to do their jobs? So there’s an issue between how much of that should be individual department colleges, and how much should be graduate colleges. So those types of issues, if you don’t study them every now and then and back up and say ‘where are we’ and you stay where you are for a 20 year period. The institution tends to not evolve. So I think Barry was trying to ask ‘is it time to ask that?’ He put a group of four deans together to ask those questions. They’re now doing an initial round of interviewing. They’re trying to figure out the breadth (of the situation). Are some of those bigger issues than others? They’re also trying to figure out what the scope should be for this work. Once they find the scope, then they’ll figure out what the work is, who should go on them, and how we, as a community, should address them. I think we’re a long way from that, but I think it’s an important piece of work.
[Correction: In an earlier version of this story, we had quoted Harreld, “You see organic chemistry taught in class…” We now understand the misunderstanding and have fixed the quote to say “CLAS (College of Liberal Arts & Sciences)” instead of “class.” The DI regrets this error.]