University of Iowa president Sally Mason says she and other campus officials need to do a better job of explaining that the university is a “huge economic engine” for the entire state. In the closing days of the 2014 legislative session House Republicans abandoned their plan to cut the University of Iowa’s allotment of state taxpayer support, in order to shift more dollars to the University of Northern Iowa.
“We need to a better job of explaining why it is we are bigger, why our budget is larger and what it means to the state of Iowa,” Mason says.
Mason cites the university’s research mission as one reason the University of Iowa’s budget is larger than UNI’s.
“We’re a very large research university. We’re one of the top 30 in the country when it comes to research productivity. Now what does that mean to Iowa?” Mason says. “Of the amount of money we bring in to do research at Iowa from other sources, sources outside Iowa, that generates 6,000 jobs here in Iowa.”
While nearly half of the undergraduate students at the University of Iowa come from out-of-state, Mason says 70 percent of the university’s medical school students are Iowa residents.
“The academic medical center without a doubt is a huge part of who we are and what we do and to offer those kind of programs and especially to offer the kind of graduate and professional programs that we do at the University of Iowa, that requires a whole different level of funding as well as a different level of equipment, support, you name it,” Mason says. “It is a more expensive operation, but I do think that it’s important to the state of Iowa.”
Mason says it’s “good and healthy” to have out-of-state students choose the University of Iowa, but she says as policymakers start to “rethink the model” of how state funding is distributed among the three state-supported universities, it’s important for her institution to stress the “intentional” decisions that have already been made to ensure, for example, that at least 60 percent of dental students in Iowa City are Iowa residents. Mason also cites data indicating 40 percent of the out-of-state students who graduate from the University of Iowa wind up landing their first job within Iowa’s borders and more would choose to stay, but can’t find a job here.
Mason made her comments this weekend during an appearance on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program.