Thursday, January 19, 2017

Welcome back. I hope you had a fun and restful break. It’s good to have everyone on campus again, as I could use your collective wisdom and energy. Many of you have already read that the University of Iowa will face challenges this semester because of a reduction in funding from the state government. This cut, in the current fiscal year, is not without precedent. But though we have weathered setbacks like this before, we must make clear to the citizens and representatives of Iowa what effect cuts like this one could have on our state’s flagship university—indeed, on all of Iowa’s public universities.

harreld at post-announcement event
Bruce Harreld

The fact is that in the last 20 years, both nationally and in Iowa, there has been a shift in who pays for public higher education—the cost has transferred from the public to the student. This video about the University of Iowa budget provides context for this continuing trend. As shown, the chief difference between the University of Iowa and its peer group is that our tuition has increased at a much slower rate. We continue to have the lowest resident undergraduate tuition among our peers—it is more than $3,000 below the average in our peer group. If the University of Iowa’s tuition was in line with that of its peers, we would bring in an additional $91 million.

We’ve approached our budgeting process responsibly and in the most collaborative way possible. Over the past year, we confirmed that we would focus on four principles: the success of our students, the metrics that demonstrate the quality of our institution to others, upholding our collective and combined values, and providing for the University of Iowa’s future. As a community, we also worked to develop a thoughtful and thorough strategic plan that abides by and reinforces those principles. In order to fully realize the benefits of that plan, which will guide us into 2021, we have to have the resources that it requires. Therefore, we must—and I will—advocate forcefully for those resources. However, if we are forced to make changes, our budgeting process will remain collaborative and open. The decisions must be made by those who will be most affected.

There is one area in which we absolutely cannot compromise: faculty compensation. If we are to uphold our principles, we must be able to compete for the best and brightest—not just in Iowa, but nationally and internationally. We can’t lose the gifted educators and researchers who call the University of Iowa home, and we must continue to recruit talented people. We already have in our community some of the brightest and most creative people in the world. By working together, we will weather this storm and come out of it stronger and more focused on our mission of education, research, and discovery.

Now is the time to share the University of Iowa’s story with your friends, neighbors, and colleagues. You can use the budget video I reference above, as well as your own personal experiences, to explain what we accomplish at the UI and what we need in order to continue serving Iowa, the nation, and the world.