Legislators are raising questions about the new “performance-based” formula for directing tax dollars to the three state-supported universities.
The formula would shift more money to the University of Northern Iowa, where 90 percent of students are Iowa residents, and the University of Iowa would get less money because its enrollment is nearly half Iowans and half out-of-staters. Representative Zach Nunn, a Republican from Bondurant, said it seems like a “shell game” to him.
“I’m having a hard time appreciating where we’re giving (state tax dollars) to each of the Regents schools and then having one Regents school come back and plead that they, now, have been pillaged,” Nunn said after an appropriations subcommittee met with the presidents of the three univerisites.
In the formula’s first year of implementation, the University of Iowa would get about 13 million dollars less and legislators are being asked to give the university that much extra money to fill the shortfall. Representative Rob Taylor, a Republican from West Des Moines, told officials from all three universities he’s concerned community college enrollment will decline as Iowa, Iowa State and UNI get more aggressive in enrolling Iowa students.
“Is that just me being anxious or is that real?” Taylor asked.
University of Northern Iowa president William Ruud said the three state supported universities enroll a little less than 20 percent of the Iowans who graduate from high school every year.
“There is plenty of room, plenty of available opportunity for us to eduate Iowans who are looking for a certificate, looking for a two-year degree, looking for a four-year degree,” Ruud said.
Iowa State University president Steven Leath said he “has not seen a better model” than the new formula the Regents propose.
“There’s certainly nothing wrong with Iowa tax money following Iowa kids,” Leath said. “But it also puts emphasis on degree attainment, progress towards graduation, economic development — all things that we should all value.”
Officials say 300,000 hours of credits earned by Iowa community college students were transferred to the state universities this past year. And about one-third of the new students at Iowa State last fall were community college transfers.