Regents approve $523M funding request including $12.9M to avoid U of I reduction

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AMES, Iowa — The Iowa Board of Regents voted Wednesday to ask the Iowa Legislature for nearly $523 million in funding next year for the state's three public universities.

The amount includes $12.9 million to prevent cuts to the University of Iowa's budget as the state's three public universities transition to a new funding model based on in-state enrollment.

The board also wants an additional $6.6 million for the University of Northern Iowa and $6.3 million more for Iowa State University when lawmakers convene in January.

The budget plan approved unanimously at the board meeting in Ames would prevent the $12.9 million from being shifted away from the University of Iowa next year to the other two schools, as previously called for under a new funding model. It's unclear what would happen to UI's funding if lawmakers don't approve the $12.9 million.

University of Iowa President Sally Mason said her plan to deal with the changing funding approach is to increase enrollment that includes more Iowa students.

"The growth at the University of Iowa will ultimately make some shifts in terms of how we recruit and particularly how we recruit in-state students," she said.

She said the university will continue to ensure it has a diverse student body and "to make certain we take our share of undergraduate students that should be coming to the University of Iowa."

Under the new funding model, 60 percent of the money the schools receive from the Legislature in taxpayer dollars annually would be allocated to in-state enrollment. The other 40 percent would be based on performance measures, such as the number of graduates and the diversity of student bodies.

Regents said the plan would align Iowa tax dollars with Iowa students while rewarding the universities for meeting key performance measures. Under the old funding system, the universities received money simply based upon the amount they received the prior year.

Regent Subhash Sahai said he's deeply uncomfortable with so much money being taken from University of Iowa if lawmakers don't approve the additional $12.9 million.

Regent Robert Downer said he would vote for the funding proposal but will continue to work to change the plan if it results in a reduction in University of Iowa funding.

"This should not be construed as my support for the reduction of that amount from the University of Iowa if this supplemental funding is not approved," he said. "If it is not approved I will continue to attempt to modify the actions taken by the board that led to the determination of this amount."

Regents President Bruce Rastetter said the taxpayers fund just over $500 million of the $3.8 billion total budget for the state universities. The new funding model is an appropriate incentive to reward universities to recruit in-state students, he said.

He said, however, that the model will be reviewed over time and phased in over three years, which will allow the University of Iowa to continue its efforts to improve its in-state recruitment.

A spokesman for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who must decide whether to include the $12.9 million supplement in his budget proposal to the Legislature, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

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