President Mason optimistic about university's budget for next year

BY BETH BRATSOS | APRIL 12, 2012 6:30 AM

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University of Iowa President Sally Mason told UI employees Wednesday large budget cuts "are not likely" despite a fall in higher-education funding.

"I'm very pleased with the governor's budget and the Senate's budget," she said. "We're trying to see if we can get the House to turn around on their stance … higher education is very worth supporting."

Speaking to members of the UI Staff Council, Mason said she is encouraged by the talk of increasing next year's financial budget.

Despite the 26 percent decline in nationwide higher education funding between 1990 and 2010, Mason said raises for faculty and staff members aren't out of the question.

"I feel very confident our planning process has put us in a good position going forward," Mason said. "We do value all of you … [and] we try to give increases in pay throughout the years to indicate that support."

Mason touted the UI Foundation's recent fundraising success to counter the decreased appropriations.

In fiscal year 2011, the UI Foundation saw its second most successful year, and received $213,994,660 in private gift support, an increase from $190,624,697 in fiscal year 2010.

Forrest Meyer, the foundation's executive director of strategic communications, said one of the main reasons for the record-setting year is the UI Foundation's partnership with the university and contributors.

"It's a real team effort," he said. "The main thing is our donors are very generous and loyal."

Meyer said the major sources of fundraising for the UI Foundation are donor projects, sustaining åefforts such as mass emails and direct mail, and campaigns.

Mason also praised the efforts of students — both in the Hawkeye Caucus and the Universities for a Better Iowa — in sharing the "values of the university across the state" and with legislators.

"I am very pleased with the initial efforts in the strong advocacy campaign on behalf of the university," she said.

Mason also said despite lack of funding, UI enrollment remained strong.

"Enrollment looks strong and we are likely to see a record class in terms of talent and diversity," she said of the coming year.

Though now officials are focusing on increasing the number of Iowans applying to the UI Mason said, which has "been flat for a number of years."

But Mason said officials would like to hold off on increasing enrollment numbers further until the new residence hall is complete.

"We would really struggle if we took on an additional 500 or 1,000 students at this time," she said.

Von Stange, the UI director of University Housing and Dining, said he agrees with the sentiment.

"[That's] kind of the assumption we've been working on," he said. "So the [size of the] freshman class won't go up until we have more space for housing."

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