Bruce Rastetter

Bruce Rastetter

Leaders of the board that governs Iowa’s public universities are urging legislators to embrace the board’s new “performance-based” formula for state funding of the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa.

If the plan is adopted, ISU and UNI would get more, because they have more in-state students, while the University of Iowa would get less. Some legislators say that’s pitting one school against the others, but Board of Regents president Bruce Rastetter says the funding model for the public universities hadn’t been adjusted for over 70 years and it’s time to make the change.

“There’s important aspects of the funding model that make it open and transparent, that match the board’s goals and the universities’ goals with state funding,” Rastetter says. “Issues like accessibility, affordability, graduation rates, time to a degree to help lower that student debt number and in particular the University of Northern Iowa’s financial budget has always been challenged.”

Under the decades-old formula for distributing state funding, the University of Iowa got 46 percent, Iowa State got 36 percent and UNI got 18 percent. Katie Mulholland, the president pro-tem of the Board of Regents, says the new formula would place a great emphasis on sending state money to support students who are Iowa residents.

“The purpose behind the whole formula is to give some stability when we go for appropriations,” Mulholland says, “so that we can say exactly where the money is going and that it’s going for Iowa students.”

Some legislators say the new formula will start a “war for students” — raising the stakes among the large public universities and the state’s small private colleges and universities in the competition for Iowa high school graduates. Rastetter points to the roughly 5000 Iowa high school grads each year who choose to go out of state to college and he says they should be more heavily recruited to attend an Iowa institution, as they’ll be more likely to stay in the state after graduation.

“Beyond that we have a number of first generation students,” Rastetter says. “The hispanic population is growing in Iowa…We should work to attract them and that’s part of the public university mission.”

Rastetter and Mulholland made their comments during this morning’s taping of Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program that airs this evening.