The board that governs the state-supported universities in Ames, Cedar Falls and Iowa City is resisting a call for a new campus. Legislators from northwest Iowa have been pressuring the Board of Regents to consider expanding into the Sioux City area, but Board of Regents president Michael Gartner says you can’t have campuses everywhere — and Iowa, Iowa State and U-N-I already have a “presence” in Sioux City now.”There’s all kinds of educational opportunities through distance learning,” Gartner says. “There doesn’t seem to be enough of a demand to justify adding another facility.”
Gartner says he understands the desires of western Iowans who see all the campuses in eastern Iowa cities. “One of the great positives about the Regents system in the state of Iowa is that it’s manageable,” Gartner says. It’s in contrast to the state university systems in states like Wisconsin which has 13 four-year state college campuses. “That’s neat to have it but that’s extraordinarily expensive to operate,” Gartner says.
He believes legislators from northwest Iowa understand it would be “economically inefficient” to open a new campus or graduate school attendance center in Sioux City. “It’s very easy to build a facility,” Gartner says. “It’s very costly, then, to operate it for the next 20, 30, 40, 50, 100 years.” Gartner says an Iowa State University professor did a “thorough” study of whether a new campus in Sioux City was feasible. “I understand the politics of it. I understand the pride in wanting something like that but academically it doesn’t look right now like it makes a lot of sense,” Gartner says. “Economically, it doesn’t look right now like it makes a lot of sense and strategically, it doesn’t look right now like it makes a lot of sense.”
But House Speaker Christopher Rants, a Republican from Sioux City, isn’t willing to accept that answer. Rants questions whether a true “study” was even undertaken of Sioux City as a potential site for a new campus or graduate-level attendance center. “Those of us in the community are a little baffled by that since nobody came out and visited us,” Rants says. Rants believes the Board of Regents made up their minds, without really researching the possibility. “Mr. Gartner and the member of the Regents know that I feel that way,” Rants says.
According to Rants, high-tech companies in northwest Iowa are forming relationships with nearby universities in South Dakota and Nebraska because Iowa, Iowa State and U-N-I are not serving their needs. “We have a concern that frankly the regents aren’t…coming out to our communities to engage in that technology transfer,” Rants says. Rants is “disappointed” but says he’s never been under the illusion a new campus would open in northwest Iowa, but he hoped the universities would expand their services into that quadrant of the state.