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Miles: Don’t look to gov’t for money

BY ALYSSA CASHMAN | FEBRUARY 26, 2010 7:30 AM

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The days of plentiful government funding for higher education are long gone.

State Board of Regents President David Miles emphasized this point to approximately 100 members of the Iowa City Noon Rotary Club and several top University of Iowa officials on Thursday.

Miles addressed the “present and future” of the university, stating financial independence would be a critical success factor.

“The outlook is one of increasing self-sufficiency now and for the foreseeable future,” he said.

For fiscal 2010, state appropriations will dip to just 41 percent of the UI’s budget, according to the regents’ budget.

Some members of the community and university have raised concerns about this trend, but Miles was optimistic about the UI’s ability to diversify and persevere.

“We must preserve and protect the outstanding quality of this university,” he said.

He outlined four areas of focus for the university in upcoming years — operations, funding, educational-delivery models, and results.

For funding, Miles iterated the need for increased private gifts and research grants to help buoy the UI. He also suggested the regents needed to review the issue of tuition, calling into question whether the UI’s “bargain” price tag — which is the second lowest in the Big Ten — was realistic.

“We need to determine whether and how our present tuition levels will sustain the university,” he said. “We need to educate ourselves and take the time to do the background work.”

While the issue of tuition won’t be addressed immediately, he said, it will be something the regents discuss before the next tuition decision is made.

“It’s an incredibly tough issue,” said Regent Robert Downer, who attended the event. “Our tuition is low, but income levels in Iowa are lower than most. I don’t want to see mountains of debt.”

While UI and state officials continue to look for myriad funding sources, Miles admitted students’ education might suffer in the meantime.

“Our students are paying more and getting less, which weighs heavily on us all,” he said.

Miles has addressed the Rotary Club in the past, most recently in October 2008. Bernie Cremers, president-elect of the club, said he appreciated Miles’ straightforward manner.

“He didn’t mince any words,” Cremers said. “He was inclusive of what we wanted to know. Things are changing.”

Downer stressed the importance of obtaining perspectives from community members external to the UI.

Miles affirmed that idea in his speech, pointing to the link between higher education and community well-being in Iowa. He noted state universities pumped $6.4 billion into Iowa’s economy in fiscal 2009.

“The future of Iowa is inextricably linked to the future of education,” Miles said. “I think our best days are ahead.”


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