Q&A: Mason discusses tuition, Hancher

BY DI STAFF | FEBRUARY 02, 2010 7:30 AM

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The Daily Iowan sat down with UI President Sally Mason for a monthly Q&A series to discuss Hancher, budget changes, tuition, and other decisions going before the state Board of Regents on Thursday.

DI: What are your thoughts on the decision to separate Hancher and the School of Music?

Mason: I think this is certainly a good decision, and as we looked at all of the available sites, I think it’s the best decision and we’re looking forward to taking it to the Board of Regents on Thursday and getting their approval so we can get going.

We actually end up, I think, with the best of both worlds. We have large performances at Hancher out in the beautiful West Side of campus, and we have smaller performances, everything from opera to recitals, downtown.

DI: How will money from Gov. Chet Culver’s proposal affect cuts UI officials have already made?

Mason: Stay tuned on Thursday [at the Board of Regents meeting]. I think you’ll be hearing more about that, and I think it’ll be exciting for the students.

We need to go to the regents and get their obvious agreement and approval on this, but really, we’re grateful to the governor obviously for giving us the opportunity to have some of that money come back to the university. We were in a pretty tough position with that 10 percent across-the-board cut.

Even with the restoration of about $14 million, we still have $50 million in budget cuts that we’ve sustained over the last 18 months, and that’s not an easy thing to absorb. But at this point the restoration of the $14 million is a bright spot on an otherwise pretty dark horizon so we’re pleased, we’re pleased.

DI: Could the money affect the decision to increase tuition by 6 percent?

Mason: Well, I think prior to this with the 10 percent across-the-board cut, there was some chatter about, “Well, would 6 percent be enough?” I certainly have no intentions of asking for larger than 6 percent at this time. I really think that we’ve laid the groundwork for what we can do with 6 percent tuition increase. It’s a relatively modest tuition increase compared with what most places are doing across the country.

Six percent will help; it certainly won’t close that gap. That’s not going to raise $50 million for us, but it helps, and it certainly helps us start our planning process for next year and the years after that.

DI: If the graduate task force does recommend cutting programs, how will the UI continue to serve those students?

Mason: In every case where I’ve seen programs that were eliminated or phased out, it is a phase out. In other words, students who are in those programs will be given every opportunity to finish those programs without any disruption to their academic endeavors.

DI: With recruiting out-of-state and international students, how do you plan to maintain the feel of a state institution?

Mason: Our out-of-state and our international students contribute both to our economy and to our diversity.

We have an aging demographic here in Iowa, so the population is actually getting older. So the more young people we can bring into the state, the more vitality we add to the state. And if they can stay, if they can find good jobs and stay, then all the better for Iowa and all the better for us.

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