Records: Mason's trip to Asia cost $130K


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President Sally Mason’s recent trip to Asia July 1-9 cost the University of Iowa nearly $130,000 — approximately the same amount UI officials spend on international recruitment each year.

But UI administrators maintain that the cost of the trip does not outweigh its benefits.

Mason, husband Ken Mason, and 16 other delegates went on the trip, which included stops in Hong Kong, Taipei, Shanghai, and Beijing. The UI Foundation paid trip expenses for Sally and Ken Mason, one member of the UI President’s Office staff, and three members of the UI Foundation, the DI previously reported.

The total expense for the university was $128,006.04, according to records provided to The Daily Iowan. Transportation and other logistics made up the bulk of the cost, a combined $71,766.01. Hotel costs made up the next largest amount at $32,239.84.

Margaret Crocco, the dean of the College of Education at the UI, was one of the delegates on the trip. She said it was important for the university to continue its global outreach, and maintains the cost was not excessive.

“If the university doesn’t make these trips, it will be behind in the global marketplace,” she said. “The UI is going at this in a very careful way, and making sure it’s very cost effective.”

UI spokesman Tom Moore said global trips like Mason’s are part of the university’s mission to engage globally.

“This is an area of the world with growing and emerging economies,” he said. “These trips are important in transformative research, heightening diversity [at the university], and enhancing the role of higher education in public life in the region.”

Moore said the benefits outweigh the cost.

“Our legacy in that part of the world is hard to put a figure on,” he said.

International students at the UI contribute $83 million to the Iowa economy, and students from Asia make up more than 50 percent of international students at the university, Moore said.

Downing Thomas, dean of international programs at the UI, said the trip was well worth the cost.

“Not only does it provide greater visibility for the university globally, but it allows us to connect with alumni and make research connections in these areas,” he said. “The amount we pay pales in comparison with the economic benefit and cultural richness they bring to our program.”

Thomas previously told the DI the university spends roughly $130,000 a year sending representatives to schools to attend recruitment fairs all over the world.

Several other Big Ten universities have sent administration officials across the globe for academic purposes as well, including Indiana University, the University of Illinois, and the University of Michigan.

Rick Fitzgerald, the associate director of public affairs at the University of Michigan, said the university has sent its president, Mary Sue Coleman, on a number of trips around the world.

Coleman recently returned from a trip to Brazil, and she has gone to China twice on the university’s dime.

“We are a global university; we attract students from all over the world,” he said. “Our global presence is stronger than it’s ever been.”

Fitzgerald said costs for Coleman’s trips were not readily available.

Moore said Mason’s trip was the first of its kind since her South Korea trip in 2008, and that while international trips would not happen often, they would be periodic.

“Any major research university needs to be engaged in the world,” he said. “It’s essential to the core of the university’s mission that we continue to be involved, and connect the UI to the global community.”

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