Mason: UI losing faculty due to budget cuts


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The University of Iowa is losing strong faculty members to other states because of the negative side effects of ongoing state budget cuts, UI President Sally Mason told legislators Wednesday.

In her presentation to the education appropriations subcommittee, she said she has recently learned of faculty leaving the UI to teach in Indiana and Ohio, among other states, which she said are no better off economically than Iowa.

“I would like to sit before you and claim that, ‘Sure we can do this, no problem at all,’ ” Mason said regarding the proposed budget cuts for next year. “If I did that, I would be fooling myself and misleading this committee.”

Mason, Iowa State University President Gregory Geoffroy, University of Northern Iowa Ben Allen, and David Miles — the president of the state Board of Regents — spoke to the state legislators in Des Moines on Wednesday about several concerns with next year’s budget.

Mason maintained that the most difficult issues were the ongoing loss of faculty and decreases in the quality of educational programs.

“The sparks that are created on campus each and every day help to light the path to our collective future,” she said. “Each time we cut back on our public funding of higher education, that light starts to dim.”

Sen. Brian Schoenjahn, D-Arlington — the chairman of the committee — said he found the idea of losing faculty unsettling.

“To think that we are losing quality educators to any state is concerning,” he said. “But the idea that we’re losing them to states in far worse positions is unacceptable.”

UI Faculty Senate President Ed Dove said he is aware the university is losing faculty to competing schools that have more stable funding.

“We tend to lose some of the best faculty because they are the ones with the opportunities to leave and join better-funded universities,” he said.

Indiana saw a 1.9 percent decrease in state appropriations last year, and Ohio saw a 5.4 percent drop, according to data collected by the Grapevine Study by the Center for the Study of Education Policy and State Higher Education Executive Officers. Iowa saw a 12.2 percent loss in state funding to public universities. To make up for lost revenue, schools have significantly increased tuition for both in-state and out-of-state students. In the last two years, Iowa public universities have drawn more funding from tuition dollars than from state appropriations.

And on Jan. 27, Gov. Terry Branstad proposed another 6 percent slash to the state’s public universities despite calls from regents for a roughly $18 million increase in funding. This would add to a loss of $118 million in the last two years.

Miles told legislators a 12.6 percent increase in tuition would be necessary to close the funding gap should Branstad’s current budget proposal be approved.

“Public higher education in Iowa can only do more with less for so long before quality, access, and affordability are all compromised — perhaps beyond repair,” Miles told the subcommittee.

But Rep. Greg Forristall, R-Macedonia, said he felt the 12 percent figure was “unreasonable” and believes universities could cut from other areas to keep tuition down.

Regents are considering a 5 percent in tuition increase for most UI students for 2011-12 year.

“For starters, there needs to be more transparency with the regents’ budget to ensure their priorities are in line with what is best for the universities,” Forristall said.

Mason told the committee the UI has downsized its workforce enough to generate about $80 million in savings.

Schoenjahn said all three schools would likely have to consider something similar to delay such a large increase.

“At this point, they’re saying they’ve done everything they can do, and it would be detrimental to have Branstad’s cut,” the Democrat said.

Another area of funding concern for the UI may soon be flood recovery. The cost may be closer to $1 billion than the previous estimate of $743 million, Mason said Wednesday.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said the revised estimate includes costs for the Museum of Art and cost refinements for architects and engineers who will complete campus projects. Moore said the UI will look to many outlets for additional funding, including the Iowa Homeland Security and FEMA.

FEMA previously agreed to pay 90 percent of costs for flood-damaged facilities, said FEMA spokesman Josh DeBerge.

“We rely on the state as well as the applicant to present us with eligible projects,” DeBerge said. “The university can estimate what the costs will be, we’ll certainly continue to work as they identify eligible projects.”

FEMA funds 157 projects at the UI, totaling roughly $472.3 million.

The House passed Branstad’s budget bill; it is now being debated by the Senate.

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