The Daily Iowan

Kumar: The UI’s drop in rankings does not reflect programs offered

The University of Iowa has a host of amazing programs, centers and opportunities that students themselves have never heard of because of poor advertising from the university itself.

A+Herky+statue+with+a+%22PHIL+Was+Here%22+sash+stands+on+the+Pentacrest+on+Monday%2C+April+24.+Beginning+in+2012%2C+the+UI+launched+PHIL+Was+Here+to+celebrate+philanthropy+at+the+university.+
A Herky statue with a

A Herky statue with a "PHIL Was Here" sash stands on the Pentacrest on Monday, April 24. Beginning in 2012, the UI launched PHIL Was Here to celebrate philanthropy at the university.

Ben Allan Smith

Ben Allan Smith

A Herky statue with a "PHIL Was Here" sash stands on the Pentacrest on Monday, April 24. Beginning in 2012, the UI launched PHIL Was Here to celebrate philanthropy at the university.

Michelle Kumar, Opinion Columnist

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Recently, the University of Iowa dropped from No. 31 to No. 38 on the 2019 “Best Colleges” list by U.S. News & World Report. The drop was expected but nonetheless still shocking. The drop in ranking doesn’t reflect the top-notch opportunities and programs we have here at Iowa.

The UI has many opportunities that students aren’t aware of. That’s because of poor advertising and a lack of investment in these important programs. Budget cuts and a drop in funding from the state has forced the university to reorder priorities, and that problem may have been a long time to come, but this issue goes beyond a budget.

For fiscal 2019, the university’s budget is $4.1126 billion. Regardless of how that money is distributed, the lack of awareness about UI programming and centers is just as much to blame for our drop in ranking.

From the groundbreaking research the school does at the Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, Center for Computer Aided Design, Center for Human Rights, and the Public Policy Center, the public and even the students aren’t aware of all these opportunities and the work that’s being done. And those are just a few of the centers the UI has. That doesn’t include the numerous institutes, programs, and certificates the UI has to offer.

In a previous statement to The Daily Iowan, President Bruce Harreld said, “The US News rankings are a stark illustration of what happens when there’s not enough investment by the state in higher education, which will necessitate additional investments by students and their families. Continuing the generational disinvestment will result in further reductions in outcomes for students and the university.”

RELATED: More UI programs may feel the burn of state budget cuts

The methodology used to rank schools places 10 percent of the weight directly on financial resources, which goes to show the state’s fiscal support for Iowa’s public universities matters. The UI has seen a reduction in support of $16 million since fiscal 2016 alone. However, the impact of state support also shows itself indirectly in other factors the methodology considers.

While funding from the state would make it a lot easier to invest in programs and not force us to shut down great projects, what are we doing with the tools we already have to promote the university? In the age of technology and social media, it should be easy to promote good work. The university has a host of amazing things going on that we can work with. A specific instance of this would be the recent proposal to shut down the UI Labor Center. Unfortunately, by the time people heard about the situation, it was too late.

If we had better promoted the important work the center had done, the fight to save it wouldn’t have been so last-minute. During Phil Week, if alumni, the public, and other donors were aware of the center’s importance, maybe they could have contributed to help it stay open.

RELATED: University of Iowa falls in rankings, blames dwindling state funding

The university is one of the best places in the world for writing, yet a lot of students don’t even know about the International Writing Program or the Writers’ Workshop. The lack of pride and awareness we have about things like this directly affects how much we invest in them. How can students, let alone the public, invest in something they don’t know exists?

In the state and the Midwest, when people think of the UI, they think of the football program. The football program is great and brings in a lot of revenue, but there’s so much more that makes the UI great, and there’s so much more we have to offer.

The UI Labor Center is just one case of many defunded programs, and we’ll definitely see more cases similar to it because of the lack of state funding and budget cuts. Our ranking does not reflect the amazing opportunities at the UI, and it’s not solely because we have less funding. We as students need to do a better job to be aware of the opportunities at the UI, and the university should use the tools it has to promote and take pride in all that we do.

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