Regents to ask state lawmakers to restore $8 million cut, $18 million boost in funding

The state Board of Regents are asking state lawmakers to fill an $8 million hole and add another $18 million in general fund budget. “State appropriations are one of two primary sources of core operating funds supporting higher education.”


Abby Watkins

The Board of Regents holds a meeting discussing bond sales and loss of revenue due to COVID-19 on Youtube live stream on Thursday, April 30, 2020.

Sarah Watson, Executive Editor

The state Board of Regents is asking the Iowa Legislature to fill an $8 million cut state lawmakers made in June, and boost funding by another $18 million for fiscal 2022.

The regents will ask for $504,046,866 for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2021 at their virtual meeting Sept. 23 and 24. That $18 million bump, if approved, would split  $7 million for the University of Iowa, $7 million for Iowa State University, and $4 million for the smaller University of Northern Iowa.

In June, Iowa lawmakers slashed $8 million from the state Board of Regents’ budget. The regents also requested an $18 million boost for fiscal 2021, which started July 1.  Before universities experienced steep losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Reynolds recommended in January that the Legislature increase funding to the regents institutions by $15 million.

In June 2020, the Board froze tuition rates for the 2020-21 academic year “after massive disruptions created by the COVID-19 pandemic affected all students, faculty, and staff,” regents documents stated. Regents haven’t yet approved future tuition rates.

As a result, tuition revenue is also budgeted to drop at each university for fiscal 2021.

“Consistent with the Board’s strategic plan, determining and fulfilling appropriate resource needs are essential in providing high quality public education, cutting-edge research, and needed public services. State appropriations are one of two primary sources of core operating funds supporting higher education,” documents stated.

According to regents documents, general fund expenses related to instruction, academic support, and scholarships and fellowships make up three-quarters of the combined general university expenses.

“Driving additional resources to the classroom and overall student experience is critical to improving student outcomes. Student recruitment and retention, in combination with predictable and sustained state support, create an environment where students and families have better information to plan for college. Years of declining state appropriations have resulted in significant resource constraints, and hampered attempts to provide predictability.

“Predictable and sustainable funding is essential to ensure an exceptional experience for students. Student success priorities largely focus on access and affordability, recruiting and retaining outstanding faculty/staff, and providing a learning environment conducive to a quality educational experience. Additional resources will support efforts to shorten time to graduation, provide academic intervention for students who may be struggling, financial aid, close retention and graduation achievement gaps for underrepresented and first generation student populations, academic advising efforts, implement technology upgrades, etc.”

The regents are also asking to restore Iowa Public Radio funds to 2017 levels. State lawmakers leveled a $40,920 cut to IPR in fiscal 2018.

If approved by the Board at their September, meeting the request will go to the Iowa Legislature, set to convene in January.

Fiscal 2021 general university operating budgets are $65.4 million less than the fiscal 2020 budgets, according to regents documents.