Growing trend in higher education used to discover additional resources

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Friday, February 8, 2019

The University of Iowa announced it is exploring a potential public-private partnership (P3) with its utility system. The university joins a growing number of institutions across the country looking for new ways to bridge a meaningful gap in available resources. 

“The UI is committed to delivering on our mission of education and research excellence,” says UI President J. Bruce Harreld. “Investigating this opportunity over the next nine to 10 months in order to determine if a P3 is right for our campus is a prudent and measured step.”

Under a P3, the UI will maintain ownership of its utility system while entering into a professional services agreement with a third party. This agreement will provide the UI with an upfront payment that the university will place into an endowment. The annual proceeds realized from the endowment will be invested in the core missions of the university (teaching, research, and scholarship), as well as strategies that will implement the UI's Strategic Plan 2016-2021, which was approved by the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, in 2016.

A successful partnership will ensure the following commitments are kept:

  • The university will be able to operate the plant without burning coal no later than Jan. 1, 2025.
  • The new plant operator will continue to explore new sources of bio-fuels creating sustainable, lower-cost fuel options.
  • All facilities will be maintained by the new operator in similar or better condition.  
  • Campuswide sustainability efforts will be continued.

The UI expects that the new operating entity would offer university employees involved in the P3 a position with their company. Those utility system employees who are not offered a position with the new operating entity will retain a university position. 

“We value our employees and the intent of the P3 is not to reduce staff,” says Rod Lehnertz, UI senior vice president for finance and operations. “It is our people in Utilities and Energy Management that have made our system a best practice model in higher education.”

The UI will actively engage the campus through shared governance and information sessions to ensure an outcome that is in the best interest of the university and its constituents. The overall timeline has several distinct timeframes, (RFQ, RFP, and allocation of resources), which will provide significant opportunity for campus feedback. The current schedule is as follows and updated on April 11:

  • Feb. 12: Faculty Senate information session
  • Feb. 13: Staff Council information session
  • Feb. 19: UI Student Government information session
  • March 4: UI Graduate and Professional Student Government information session
  • March 5: Information session on the west side of campus, 9:30 to 11 a.m. in the Urmila Sahai Conference Room, Medical Education Research Facility, room 2117
  • March 6: Information session on the east side of campus, 9 to 10:30 a.m. in the  Big Ten Theater, Iowa Memorial Union, room 348
  • April: RFQ released
  • May 1: Information session on the west side of campus, 9 to 10 a.m. in the Prem Sahai Auditorium, Medical Education Research Facility, room 1110A
  • May 2: Information session on the east side of campus, 1 to 2 p.m. in the Big Ten Theater, Iowa Memorial Union, room 348
  • Summer 2019: RFP released
  • Early fall semester 2019: Vendor selected 
  • Fall semester 2019: Board of Regents evaluation 
  • Late fall semester 2019: Agreement signed 
  • FY21: Resources first allocated 

“Through our creativity, collaborative spirit, and relentless determination, the UI will determine its own future. This is our charge, and this is our opportunity,” says Harreld.

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