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Editorial: UI/AIB merger promising

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | JANUARY 28, 2015 5:00 AM

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With a campus as seamlessly integrated with the surrounding metropolitan area as the University of Iowa is with Iowa City, the two are almost synonymous. But in a surprising move, UI President Sally Mason announced Monday that the university would look westward for a merger with the AIB College of Business in Des Moines. The college will become the UI’s Des Moines campus.

As Mason tries to establish her legacy as the outgoing UI president, an expansion seems like a logical choice. The UI would follow in the footsteps of other Big Ten universities, such as the University of Wisconsin, that have established campuses across their states to further spread their reach.

The college would continue its business programs, and Mason hopes to see more UI programs find their way to the campus. In a Q&A with The Daily Iowan, she said the college is ready for expansion of perhaps more than 1,000 students, or around double the current enrollment of AIB.

At a time when the new state Board of Regents’ funding model (which bases 60 percent of state funding distribution on the basis of in-state enrollment) projects a $50 million loss for the UI, finding opportunities to increase the number of in-state students is critical. Nearly half of the current enrollment at the UI consists of nonresidents, and while securing funding for the university is important, we do not believe the UI should discourage these students who have chosen to leave their home state or country to come to Iowa City.

Yet this merger means the university will attract these coveted in-state students without the tradeoff of admitting fewer out of state students. As a smaller, family-run college, AIB doesn’t have quite the same profile as the UI. The majority of the students who will attend the UI-Des Moines will be central Iowans.

The Daily Iowan Editorial Board applauds this merger. That Mason was able to accomplish this before the end of her term is a good sign that she is serious about using her last months as president to create lasting change.

However, there are several questions that must still be answered. AIB, which offers two- and four-year programs to earn associate or bachelor’s degrees and only offers classes in the mornings, is quite different from the UI. If the merger is indeed intended as an extension of the UI’s campus, the college should be held to the same standards as the university.

There is also the daunting task of getting the regents to approve the merger. As a body overseeing all three state universities, they may hesitate to act in a way that would prove beneficial to one at the expense of another, and there will need to be no overlap between the curricula offered at UI-Des Moines and the other two state universities. We have yet to hear details about the UI programs that would be part of this expansion, which is what the regents and the public should be aware of in order to make a proper judgment on the merger.


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