The Board of Regents approved its budget request to the legislature today, but not until two regents raised questions about the new funding formula. The plan allocates 60-percent of the funding to the three state schools based on their in-state enrollment, and that would take more than $12 million from the University of Iowa and give it to Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa.
Regent Subhash Sahai of Webster City expressed concern. “I think taking out that sum of money, that large an amount from S-U-I and going to the other two schools is going to have a great impact. I just struggle with that. I’ve been struggling with that ever since, and I have not voiced my concerns outside of this meeting now,” Sahai says.
Sahai says he would like them attempt to keep from taking the money from the U-I. Regent chair, Bruce Rastetter of Alden reminded Sahai that they are seeking more money to help the U-I in the transition. Rastetter says there is request for an additional 12-million-971 thousand dollars in their budget to “keep the University Iowa” whole this year.
Sahai says there’s no certainty that the school will get the extra money. “The question is, what if they (legislature) don’t approve it, do we still take the money from S-U-I and give it to the other schools,” Sahai asked. “The proposal approved by the board in June would be a three-year transition to that at a maximum of two percent,”Rastetter responded.
Sahai says that does not calm his concerns. “We’re hoping that we’re getting more money, I sincerely hope that we do. To me, I just feel uncomfortable deep inside that that’s too much money to ask for,” Sahai says. “I’m hoping that next time that a decision of this magnitude is made that we at least have two readings on it so we have a chance to think about that and listen to all sides.”
Regent Robert Downer of Iowa City says he also has some concerns about the plan, but told fellow regents he would vote for the budget plan. “However, 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,” Downer says. “In the event that it is not approved, I will continue to attempt to modify the actions that were taken by the board.”
Downer voted against the plan when it passed, and reiterated Wednesday he doesn’t believe it will work. “I do not agree that the effect of this model is to incent the institutions to achieve the objectives of the state and the board. Particularly as this is laid out in the details,” he says.
Downer says the change will hurt “flagship programs” at the University of Iowa. He cited the reorganization of the nursing program to increase the emphasis on masters and PHD programs, which he says resulted in only 10 percent of those enrolled being full-time students. Downer says the definitions set forth in the plan would in his opinion significantly underfund the recently reorganized program approved by the board. “And this clearly does not reward the University of Iowa for this program which does constitute an improvement to health care delivery for Iowans throughout the state,” Downer says.
Downer says there are other such examples of programs that will be hurt by the funding formula. “I urge the board to revisit the metrics of this funding mechanism to prevent the occurrence of this unintended and unavoidable consequence,” Downer says.
The board approved the $649 million operating budget at their meeting in Ames.