UI presents to Iowa Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee
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A University of Iowa official told state lawmakers on Thursday that freshman retention rates are the highest in the university’s history, student financial aid opportunities are being expanded, and an array of enhancements are being developed to make a college degree accessible and attainable to more Iowans.
UI Provost and Executive Vice President P. Barry Butler, speaking before the Iowa Senate’s Education Appropriation Subcommittee, said students and families are seeing tangible benefits from last year’s tuition freeze and he asked lawmakers to support a Board of Regents request for another freeze this year. [A copy of the PowerPoint presentation is available here.]
Undergraduates at the UI are now paying the second-lowest resident tuition in the Big 10—almost $4,000 less per year on average than other Big 10 students.
-UI Provost P. Barry Butler
“On behalf of the many Iowans attending the UI, I want to say thank you for your support last year in enacting the tuition freeze,” Butler said. “I have personally heard from students the positive impact this has had on them and their families.”
In addition to offsetting tuition, resources invested by the state are used to enhance an already exceptional academic experience for students at the UI, an institution whose undergraduate and graduate programs are highly ranked nationally year after year.
This educational excellence is key to the success not just of individual students, but of communities across Iowa where many graduates—what the UI calls its Hometown Hawkeyes—create businesses, teach in classrooms, and provide health care as dentists, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists.
Butler spoke on behalf of UI President Sally Mason, who had a longstanding commitment with alumni groups and major contributors to the UI’s comprehensive campaign, “For Iowa. Forevermore.”
He said one goal of the comprehensive campaign is to generate more private financial support for students, adding that under Mason’s leadership the UI has already doubled the amount of private undergraduate scholarships from $25 million when she arrived on campus to $54 million today.
“With our comprehensive campaign we intend to raise nearly $300 million to help with student success and $125 million will be for scholarships,” he said. “Thus far, we’ve raised $180 million toward the $300 million goal.”
He said that state support of financial aid packages for Iowa students, private support, and other measures are helping the UI reduce the load of debt on graduating students. For instance, 55 percent of the 2011 class graduated with debt, but 45 percent graduated debt-free—significantly better than either the national or Iowa averages, according to a national study.
This same study points out that the loan default rate for this graduating cohort is about 10 percent nationally, or 6.8 percent for those who graduated from a public institution. At the UI, the default rate is 3.3 percent.
“Again significantly better than the national average or the average of our peers,” Butler said.
He said UI efforts to keep students in school and on track toward graduation also are bearing fruits. Freshmen retention rates are the highest in the university’s history, and its four-year graduation rate is at an all-time high.
“We’re getting most of our students to commit to the four-year graduation plan, we’re providing more counseling and financial literacy education, and we’re raising lots of private dollars for scholarships,” he said. “Now is the time to continue moving the needle forward on these very desirable outcomes.”
As part of ongoing efforts to make college accessible to Iowans, Butler said the UI continues to develop incentives like a free summer semester for Iowa undergraduates. He said the university is also building on already strong transfer agreements with community colleges across the state, expanding academic support for transfer students, enhancing financial counseling and career services, and developing early intervention strategies to help ensure transfer student success.
The UI has used state funding to expand educational opportunities for place-bound Iowans through its distance education programs and offers career development opportunities for working professionals.
“We are dramatically changing how we deliver education not just to our in-residence students, but to students all across the state,” Butler said, adding that assisting military veterans succeed in college remains a priority. “We want to be sure that our students receive the best high-quality, affordable education possible. At the same time we want to be sure that our students understand how they can best finance their education as well as how we can help them with finances.”
He said state appropriations not only help Iowa’s undergraduate students, but students in the UI’s graduate and professional programs.
UI rankings by the numbers
• One of the top 30 public institutions in the country (U.S. News & World Report, 2014 edition)
• No. 1 writing programs in fiction and poetry (Iowa Writers' Workshop) and nonfiction (Poets & Writers)
•6th best college in the nation for military veterans (U.S. News & World Report, 2013)
• 26 graduate programs ranked among the top 25 of their kind (U.S. News and World Report, 2014):
“Here in Iowa, there are UI-trained physicians in 88 counties, pharmacists in 94 counties, engineers in 91 counties, dentists in 92 counties, nurses, educators, lawyers and public health professionals in 99 counties, and 14,000 business professionals who are alumni of the Henry B. Tippie College of Business all across the state,” he said, adding that the UI holds slots in all of our professional programs for Iowan students.
He said in part because of state support, 80 percent of the UI’s graduate and professional programs are ranked among the top 30 at public institutions in the United States.
Because of state support, the UI is able to continue its work nurturing the development of new businesses, products, and services through resources like the UI’s John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center.
Higher Learning Technologies (HLT), based in Coralville, is one example of graduates across the state using entrepreneurial skills gained at the UI—which has a top 25 ranked undergraduate entrepreneurial program—to start up small businesses. HLT harnesses the power of students’ smartphones and tablets to make learning a more effective, convenient, and engaging experience.
The entrepreneurial spirit goes beyond starting businesses. Many UI graduates, like UI College of Education (ranked 32nd in the nation) alumna Sheryl Hall of Spirit Lake, are bringing unique and creative ideas into their workplaces and communities, whatever their jobs.
Hall is not only improving the lives of students by implementing Advance Placement and college credit courses in her high school, she has become a positive force in the Okoboji-Spirit Lake community by promoting a growing arts and performance scene there.
“We’re making good progress, but there’s a lot more we can and will do with your assistance,” Butler said.
Meanwhile, Butler said the UI continues to seek efficiencies to make the best use of the support it receives. And he said the UI welcomes the Board of Regents’ upcoming efficiency study and further opportunities to reduce costs.
“President Mason has always been a big proponent for efficiencies across the entire system, making us a more sustainable institution for the near term as well as the long term,” Butler said.
For example, the UI has been conducting LEAN events across the operation, terminated programs that weren’t attracting students or were not central to the university’s mission, using technology to integrate systems across the enterprise, and documenting continuous quality improvement (CQI) plans in undergraduate courses.
The UI has taken other measures to streamline its operation, reduce costs, and improve efficiencies as well. These include:
- Substituting biomass, in the form of oat hulls, for coal at the UI’s main power plant, a move that has saved the UI more than $6 million in nine years
- The College of Dentistry and University of Hospitals and Clinics agreed to move administration of the hospital dentistry program to the college, saving the UI about $300,000.
- The UI and Iowa State University, along with the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, have developed a high-speed regional optical network to support education and research. BOREAS-Net provides connections between the universities and national research networks as well as access to low-cost Internet bandwidth in Chicago. Overall savings is in excess of $1 million.
“We are not just asking students and taxpayers for more funding,” Butler said. “We are also looking internally to ensure that we are spending tuition and tax dollars as wisely as possible.”