Regents approve request for $18 million boost to general funds

The state Board of Regents approved the fiscal 2021 appropriations proposal to ask Iowa lawmakers for an additional $18 million for the universities’ general funds.


Lily Smith

Regents President Mike Richards listens during the state Board of Regents meeting at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls on Friday, November 15, 2018.

Katie Ann McCarver, News Reporter

The state Board of Regents on Thursday approved its fiscal 2021 appropriations proposal requesting an additional $18 million to fund student-success initiatives.

According to regents’ documents, the governing board is asking the state to appropriate $642.4 million for the budget year beginning July 1, 2020. This sum provides for an $18 million boost to the general funds of the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa.

This appropriations request does not stipulate that additional appropriations support financial aid. Regent spokesman Josh Lehman previously told *The Daily Iowan* in an email that financial aid falls under the umbrella of student-success initiatives, even though it is not explicitly requested of the state.

“The board is committed to providing quality education that is accessible and affordable,” Regents President Michael Richards said. “We must continue to move our universities forward.

This requires resources, and we must be creating and leveraging our assets to find ways to provide … sustainable funding.”

Now in the second year of the regents’ five-year tuition model, Richards said, the regents’ process of setting tuition rates remains the same. The governing board will make appropriation requests for regents universities, and set tuition rates in June 2020 based on what it receives in funds.

RELATED:Iowa regents’ funding request ditches financial-aid focus for fiscal 2021

Richards said this plan allows resident-undergraduate students and their families time to do personal financial planning. If the state fully funds the regents’ appropriations request, the base tuition rate increase for this population will be 3 percent.

Without additional funding from the state, he said, resident-undergrad tuition rates will increase by 3 percent plus the projected Higher Education Price Index. Richards said the fiscal 2021 index is an estimated 2.3 percent.

Partial funding from the state, he said, means base resident-undergrad tuition rates fall somewhere within the above range.

Richards thanked Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa General Assembly for the state funding the regents received last year. Regents received less than their desired amount from the state for fiscal 2020, with $12 million in appropriated funds — below their request of $18 million.

“Our public universities continue to be among the finest in the nation, and we have a shared responsibility to keep them great,” Richards said on the regents’ relationship with state government.

RELATED:Iowa regent universities to evenly split $12 million increase in state support

Richards said each regent university is actively looking for additional sources of revenue to complement tuition, state appropriations, and reallocation. He referenced the UI’s exploration of a private-public partnership as an example, which would allow the university to enter into an agreement with an outside corporation to benefit financially from its own utility system.

“If this initial effort is successful, this could provide a blueprint for future opportunities for other institutions and even possibly other branches of state government,” Richards said of the potential public-private partnership.

Efforts such as this one to explore alternative, complementary revenue sources will raise a proper level of funding to allow the regent universities to continue to provide quality education, Richards said.

UI President Bruce Harreld said the university is primarily considering a public-private partnership “to ensure that the UI strategic plan is resourced.”

If the university enters into such an agreement, he said, it will continue to own its utility system, but will receive funding. Whomever the UI partners with will receive a steady financial return, as well as tax benefits the university cannot obtain because of its nonprofit status.

“We expect this transparency and accountability will also enhance [the regents’] ability to hold us accountable,” Harreld said.