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Mason addresses budget concerns

BY LAUREN MILLS | OCTOBER 02, 2009 7:20 AM

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UI President Sally Mason predicted future adjustments to the university’s budget, but she remained optimistic throughout her annual “State of the U” address Thursday afternoon.

Around 200 people filled the dining room at the University Athletics Club, sipping coffee and finishing chicken at tables with white linens as Mason gave her speech. The Iowa City Noon Rotary Club hosts the luncheon each year and invites members of roughly 20 other service organizations in the area.

Mason recognized that economic problems dominate public discussions from kitchen tables to business meetings.

“Never before have we needed hope and optimism than in the past two years,” Mason said.

She maintained that tone, noting the current environment provided the UI with an opportunity to redefine and recast itself.

Such adjustments are the responsibility of the university, she said, likening the institution to an investor that should protect its assets but also take advantage of the opportunity to invest more and invest smarter.

And some adjustments will be necessary because of the $30 million reduction at the state level, she said.

“We will protect quality, protect people, and maintain affordability,” Mason said.

Despite her optimistic outlook and promises of affordability, some students expressed concern about rising tuition.

“This is my second year here, and I’ve seen an increase,” said UI sophomore Richard Tronolone of Illinois, who saw approximately $1,500 added to his tuition this year. “If it kept going up for the next couple of years, I could see people not wanting to come here.”

Students remain concerned about the debt they will have to face when they graduate.

“I just had to apply for more loans,” said UI junior Jeannea Williams as she sat in the Main Library Thursday night. “I’m trying not to think about it now, just hoping it will get better.”

Last year, the luncheon took place just months after much of the UI was damaged by the 2008 flood.

Updates on flood recovery dominated Mason’s speech, said Karin Franklin, the president of the Iowa City Noon Rotary Club. At this year’s lunch, Mason continued the recovery dialogue, but she focused on the selection of a site for the new Hancher/Voxman/Clapp complex.

She also touched on the creation of a visionary committee for a new Art Museum, which, she said, remains one of the biggest question marks after the flood.

Mason announced the final public forum on Hancher’s future location will be held Oct. 12. The forum will provide an opportunity for community and student participation before the committee makes the final selection.

Some members in the audience were disappointed not to receive more information.

“We’re all anxious to find out where they will put Hancher,” said Bruce Kout, the CEO of Farmers & Merchants Savings Bank and a member of the Iowa City Noon Rotary Club. “I guess they’re not ready to unveil that yet.”


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