Harreld, Iowa university presidents detail funding challenges, priorities

UI President Bruce Harreld remains steady in his push for higher tuition rates and continued state support to fund strategic initiatives.


The Daily Iowan; Photos by Josep

UI President Bruce Harreld speaks in the Voxman Music Building on Friday, April 14, 2017. Harreld advocates for more predictable state support and higher tuition rate increases to fund the university’s strategic initiatives. (The Daily Iowan/Joseph Cress)

Without consistent state support, the University of Iowa may begin to fail its students, UI President Bruce Harreld told the state Board of Regents on Wednesday afternoon.

The regents approved fiscal 2018 budget proposals delivered by the heads of the three public universities the regents govern — the UI, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa.

As a result of shortfalls in the state’s tax-revenue projections, the state Legislature approved permanent midyear budget cuts for fiscal 2017 of upwards of $20 million, with an additional $9.58 million in reductions approved in April. For fiscal 2018, regent universities will see a $30.33 million loss to the general budgets compared with fiscal 2017, according to regents’ documents.

Harreld said it is important to continue comparing the UI with universities nationwide because after graduation, students will compete in their careers with students from universities across the country.

To remain competitive, Harreld continued his call for increased tuition rates and urged for additional state support.

“This lack of a consistent revenue stream creates an uncertainty for our academic leadership, which stifles innovation, creativity, and long-term planning,” Harreld said.

A task force led by the regents will convene this month with presentations from the three public university presidents in which they will propose five-year tuition plans in light of the regents’ funding reductions. The goal is to brainstorm plans for appropriations requests and tuition rates that offer more predictability for legislators, regents, university officials, and students.

RELATED: Regents’ missed Tuition Task Force meeting disappoints many

Based on the tuition rates the regents approved in a June vote, resident undergraduate tuition for the upcoming school year at the UI is $9,190, and nonresident undergraduate tuition is $30,834 with varying rates for graduate students and students in certain colleges. The tuition increases are expected to generate $16.51 million in incremental revenue for the UI, which enrolls more than 33,000 students.

The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, which enrolls more than 29,000 students, brings in more tuition revenue than the UI and receives $482 million in funding from the state, Harreld said. UNC’s website states tuition for the upcoming school year to be $8,898 for North Carolina residents and $34,588 for nonresidents.

According to U.S. News 2017 rankings of Best Colleges, UNC is ranked at No. 30 among national universities; the UI is ranked at No. 82 on the same list.

Despite the budget cuts, the UI announced in June  that $4.9 million would be allocated toward boosting faculty compensation. Harreld, who has repeatedly referenced a need to retain top faculty to maintain instructional quality for students, hopes to raise faculty salaries to 95 percent of the median of the UI’s peer group.

RELATED: University of Iowa wrestles with retaining faculty

Interim ISU President Ben Allen, to the contrary, announced his institution generally did not offer pay raises for faculty this year because of the funding losses, but he acknowledged the burden placed on faculty relying on salary increases to keep up with the cost of inflation.

“Competitive compensation must be a priority moving forward,” he said. “However, this year we felt we could not justify another last-minute tuition hike to fund salary increases.”

In addition to boosting faculty salaries, Harreld said $4.7 million would be allocated toward increasing financial aid offerings for students through need- and merit-based scholarships.

“Educating first-generation students is an important part of our mission, and a good portion of this increase in financial aid will be targeted at this important priority,” he said.

The UI’s strategic plan lists one of its goals as improving graduation and retention rates of first-generation students. According to fall 2016 UI admissions data, 24 percent of students are first-generation.

RELATED: UI stresses diversity, inclusiveness

Funding the UI’s strategic plan will allow students to receive a nationally competitive education, Harreld said, and enable them to become the types of leaders and professionals communities and companies across the state desperately need to grow.

“As an anchoring document, the strategic plan will give the UI a direction to move, but without additional and predictable resources, the strategic plan will not be implemented,” he said.


     Fast Facts

  • The UI’s general operating budget for fiscal 2018 is nearly $2.2 billion; the UI also has $1.7 billion in restricted funds, making for a total budget of almost $4 billion
  •  After budget cuts approved by the state Legislature earlier this year, regent universities will see a $30.33 million reduction to the general operating budgets compared with fiscal 2017
  • UI President Bruce Harreld has announced boosting faculty salaries and increasing financial-aid offerings for certain populations of underrepresented students remains a priority
  • If the lack of predictability in state support continues, Harreld told the regents, strategic initiatives to maintain the quality of the education the UI provides will suffer