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Walsh reflects on time as regent

BY CARLY MATTHEW | APRIL 24, 2015 5:00 AM

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COUNCIL BLUFFS — One regent took time to express mixed feelings about her appointment before its end.

Outgoing Regent Hannah Walsh voiced both her appreciations and concern for the state Board of Regents during a meeting in Council Bluffs on Thursday, Walsh’s last. Her term will expire April 30.

“I promised myself I would do my very best to represent all of our regents’ students,” Walsh said.

Walsh is a University of Iowa senior and political-science major. One member of the nine-person board must be a student of one of the three regent universities.  

She said that, though she appreciates the opportunity to look at higher education from a dual-perspective and the positive effect education policy can make on people’s lives, she sees several issues with the structure and mentality of the regents.

Walsh highlighted what she said she sees as lack of attention to graduate and professional student populations as well as to special school students.

She said she believes there should be two student regents — one graduate student and one undergraduate student — as well as one faculty member of the board. That way, she said, these three regents could represent each of the three regent universities.

“As much as I would love and attempted to represent all the regents’ students, it’s simply impossible to truly do so,” she said.

Another issue Walsh noted was the regents’ proposed new funding model, which bases funding heavily — 60 percent — on in-state undergraduate student enrollment, with 5 percent tied to resident graduate students.

Walsh said she voted in favor, though conflicted, last year for the new model but said she came to regret her decision.

“We cannot tear down one university to build up two,” she said.

Because it has a higher proportion of out-of-state students, the UI stands to lose tens of millions of dollars under the model, and the funds would be redistributed to Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa. It still requires legislative approval.

The governor’s proposed budget did not apparently shift money around, according to the regents’ proposal.

Walsh said the percentage devoted to undergraduate students is too high and the portion devoted to graduates is too low.

“No two of our universities are totally alike,” she said. “Each contributes differently to the state of Iowa, each bettering our state for future generations. Individually, our institutions are strong, but together they’re even stronger.”

In response to the regent’ proposals, the UI has boosted advertising and recruitment efforts to draw more in-state students to Iowa City.

“Without being implemented, performance-based funding is working,” Regent President Bruce Rastetter said.

He said though the policy has not yet been implemented, the UI is set to grow 13.5 percent in resident enrollment and will also grow 9.5 percent in nonresident enrollment.

“I think that, clearly over the past year, there’s been a lot of overreaction and lobbying going on worrying about all the negatives of performance-based funding, but it will work,” Rastetter said.

Walsh has filled the remainder of former Regent Greta Johnson’s term since 2012.

“I have watched you from your first days on campus as a young freshman,” UI President Sally Mason said to Walsh at the meeting.

Walsh plans to attend the UI in the fall to earn a master’s degree in higher education and student affairs. Taking her place will be Rachael Johnson, a University of Northern Iowa student, appointed by Gov. Terry Branstad.

Walsh previously told The Daily Iowan she sought the governor’s reappointment.

She said she discovered her passion for the American political system early in life. Her experiences, especially those as a regent, influenced her special interest in education policy.

“As a student and regent, I’ve come to realize the importance of the development of quality policy and the need to understand the many complexities of the issues facing each educational institution,” Walsh said.

She took time to thank the governor, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, Mason, student leaders, the regents, and her family.

Regents Robert Downer and Ruth Harkin will also see their terms end April 30.


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