UI reacts to possible funding switch

BY JORDYN REILAND | MAY 15, 2014 5:00 AM

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Graduate and professional students and officials alike are scratching their heads at what might result in a lack of allocations for their respective programs.

During a state Board of Regents meeting in April, members of the four-person Performance-Based Revenue Model Task Force presented initial ideas and said the full recommendations will be made at the June 4 regents’ meeting.

The committee plans to recommend a more competitive model of funding, basing 60 percent of state allocation on enrollment of Iowa residents and 40 percent on educational outcomes of the universities.

This new model could potentially negatively affect many at the university.

“It is a little scary to think about being a grad-professional student, it costs a lot of money to educate a professional student,” said Alyssa Billmeyer, the president of the Graduate & Professional Student Government.

Graduate College Dean John Keller said without knowing specifically what the recommendations will be, this could be potentially an issue for the school.

“The way they have the algorithm, it does cause some concern for how the overall resource reallocation might occur and how it might come down on graduate education,” he said. “The research strength that we have are built in the large measure by the faculty of course, but they are also built by the students.”

In fall 2013, 1,740 students were enrolled in master-degree programs. There were 514 students pursuing professional master’s degrees.

Keller said many of the students in the graduate and professional programs are not Iowa residents, and they do not necessarily end up with jobs in Iowa, and that is largely what the proposed funding model is based on.

“If the notion is going to be based largely on Iowa students, it’s going to be an interesting situation for us,” he said.

During an interview with The Daily Iowan, UI President Sally Mason said she plans to speak with the regents leading up to the meeting and will continue to work through the future recommendations.

“I’m hoping that they’ll want to hear more from us in terms of the real costs, now they have a lot of that information that they can go back to, and I think it’s important that we get that on the table as a topic of further discussion for them,” she said.

Mason said she feels the task force may have undervalued the programs.

“…I want to try to make a stronger case on the value of and the cost of graduate and professional education, especially in the areas of the health sciences. I know our graduate professional students have been making the argument as well, and we’re going to continue to do that,” she said. “Because we’re the only one of the three regent institutions that really has the full breadth of graduate-professional programs, it’s really our issue. So not surprisingly it’s not an issue that is under great conversation on the other campuses. They have different pressures than we do.”

Regent Robert Downer echoed her belief.

“I do think there needs to be more of an allowance for that then is present in what came out of at least the last meeting of the task force,” he said, adding he was present at the meeting. “This cannot be entirely on the back of the students, nor can the institutions be expected to fundraise or allocate other monies to sustain professional programs.”

And the UI is one of the only public universities in the state that offers as many graduate and professional programs, Downer said.

“And where would the state be if it didn’t have people practicing these professions and readily available around the state,” he said. “To me this is a huge quality-of-life issue; it is a huge economic-development issue.”

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