After back-to-back state budget cuts by the Iowa Legislature, the University of Iowa will close several centers and furlough more than 30 individuals whose position is not directly tied to student instruction. The president and provost made the decision after receiving recommendations from the vice presidents and deans. UI administrators evaluated the budget line by line to determine which activities could be trimmed without significantly harming the university’s academic mission or student success.
“We’re disappointed to be in this position because these centers and employees provide valuable outreach and service to Iowans,” says UI President J. Bruce Harreld. “But we can no longer ask our students to support activities previously supported by the state just a generation ago.”
The list of closures includes:
- University of Iowa Center on Aging
- Confucius Institute
- Iowa Center for Assistive Technology Education and Research (I-CATER)
- Iowa Center for Higher Education (ICHE)
- Labor Center
- Office of Iowa Practice Opportunities
- UI Mobile Museum
The university also will reduce funding for a handful of other centers, including:
- The DeLTA Center
- Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH)
- Iowa Supports Education and Resources for Veterans and Enlisted (I-SERVE)
The State Hygienic Laboratory (SHL) and UI Research Foundation (UIRF) have also experienced budget challenges and have reorganized to do more with less, and in May, the university closed the Institute for Public Affairs. Collectively, budget-compelled changes will result in permanent furloughs for 31 fulltime Professional & Scientific employees and 2 Merit employees. Not every furlough is tied to a specific center, and it is possible some employees may be reassigned to other positions at the university.
“The university will offer assistance to the affected employees to help them understand their options and the resources available for securing other employment at the UI,” says Cheryl Reardon, chief human resources officer and associate vice president.
Since Fiscal Year 2016, the Iowa Legislature has cut the UI budget by $16 million. The midyear cut in April forced the university to adopt a five-month moratorium on construction projects. University leaders are concerned that the generational disinvestment in public higher education will continue.
Since 1998, the state budget has grown by nearly $3 billion and UI enrollment has grown by more than 5,000 students, but state funding for the UI has decreased by $9 million.
“The university cannot continue doing everything it’s done in the past if we want to have enough resources to recruit and retain top-notch faculty, which we know results in better instruction, research, and scholarship opportunities for our students,” says UI Interim Provost Sue Curry. “As part of our commitment to Iowa, we value outreach and the positive impact our university has on communities across the state, but these difficult decisions are necessary to protect our core mission of teaching and research.”
Not all of the closures will happen immediately as the centers wind down work and complete contractual obligations, some extending up to a year. Once concluded, the university will save about $3.5 million, which will stay within the colleges and units to offset the loss in state funding.
The Iowa Center for Higher Education
The UI will continue to offer classes in Des Moines but will close the former AIB College of Business campus now known as ICHE. AIB’s board of trustees donated the campus to the UI in 2015 and the university began offering three new undergraduate majors on the campus in fall 2016: political science, sport and recreation management, and enterprise leadership. The UI also moved undergraduate and graduate social work programs, which previously held classes at the John and Mary Pappajohn Educational Center (JMPEC) in Des Moines, to ICHE.
While social work continued to draw steady enrollment, the new programs struggled to gain traction in a competitive market. With the closing of ICHE, the social work programs will return to JMPEC. Students in the other three programs will either take classes at JMPEC or online.
“Our commitment to providing educational opportunities in Des Moines has not waned, and we will continue to look for ways to expand our course offerings. But the cost of maintaining a campus without appropriate state support is unsustainable at this time,” says Tom Rice, director of ICHE.
The UI leases space on the ICHE campus to several nonprofit organizations and offers short-term summer housing to students interning in Des Moines. The university will seek a buyer for the property. Current tenants will be able to continue to operate at ICHE until at least Dec. 31, 2018. Under the terms of the gift from AIB, any proceeds from the sale of the property must be used to provide scholarships to central Iowa students wishing to attend the UI.