Officials mull funding model


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The future of performance-based funding may be grim after both chambers of the state Legislature put forth their education budgets.

The House bill, passed April 30, rejected performance-based funding originally approved by the state Board of Regents in June 2014. Similarly, the Senate did not include language in the bill pertaining to the implementation of the model.

“I don’t think there’s any future for it this year,” said Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, who chairs the Appropriations Committee.

According to parameters of the regents’ proposed funding model, 60 percent of the three state public universities funds would be tied to in-state undergraduate enrollment.

The model calls for an increase of $6.6 million to the University of Northern Iowa and an additional $6.3 million for Iowa State University; that would cost the University of Iowa $12.9 million in a year. The regents requested $12.9 million from the Legislature in order to make up for the UI’s proposed loss this year.

UI officials to declined comment on the moves made by the Legislature, citing pending legislation.

Jeneane Beck, the senior director for news-media relations at the UI Office of Strategic Communication, said all media requests would be directed toward the regents.

Retired Maytag CEO Leonard Hadley, who was the UI’s representative on the regents’ performance-based funding task force, fought the proposed model during his time in the committee and was glad to hear the news, especially the Legislature’s bipartisanship.

“I think it was bad public policy, and the Legislature showed more good judgment than the regents,” he said. “This was a solution looking for a problem.”

Hadley said nonresident tuition supports resident students and enables tuition freezes in the first place.

“I think we’ve won this battle, but I don’t think we’ve won the war,” he said.

Regent President Bruce Rastetter said he was “disappointed” with the House’s refusal to include the new funding model in its bill in a statement April 30.

“The board’s performance-based funding proposal was designed to be a long-term solution to a decades-old funding inequity among the three public universities,” Rastetter said in the release.

Meanwhile, in a separate Monday press release, Rastetter commended Gov. Terry Branstad for supporting the model.

Dvorsky said he has worked hard to try to get the funding model out, because “it didn’t make sense for Iowa.”

Basing a good portion of funding on enrollment rather than graduation makes no sense, Dvorsky said, noting that after the regents proposed the model, there was no communication with the Legislature — even though lawmakers have the authority to decide on appropriations.

“This is a horrendous thing, and I hope the regents learn from this,” he said. “There was no legislative input at all. [The regents] just sort of said after the fact, ‘Well, here it is.’ ”

Robert Downer, a former regent and the lone vote against the funding model, said it would be tough to say the level of consideration the regents gave to the Legislature when creating the model, but he believes it had several major flaws.

“It seemed to me performance-based funding was likely to bring about more duplication of programs between the universities than less,” he said.

Additionally, he said the funding model didn’t account for the cost of various programs such as medicine, dentistry, and veterinary science, which can be high but are valuable assets to the state.

“I was relieved [the Legislature] understood this isn’t something we should have rushed into as much as we did,” former Regent and UI senior Hannah Walsh said.

Walsh, who voiced regrets last month after voting in favor of the new funding model, said she hopes the regents will now consider different options.

The Senate’s approved funding model calls for a $7 million increase to UNI, an additional $5.2 million to Iowa State University, and $4 million for the UI.

“We essentially do performance-based funding,” Dvorsky said. “We put additional funding for UNI because 92 percent of its students are from Iowa, and it doesn’t get the out-of-state tuition money then.”

The House education budget gives UNI roughly $4 million, but it will come at the cost of cutting roughly $3.4 million from the UI and a little more than $600,000 from ISU.

Rep. Greg Forristall, R-Macedonia, said that the House’s version recognized the performance based funding to an extent by setting up a difference between one institution and the other.

Sen. David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan, said it’s too late in the session to consider the model despite the efforts of the regents and university officials.

“That will be detrimental to trying to reach an agreement on a final budget,” he said, noting that the Legislature has already extended the session.

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