- Associated Press - Monday, May 26, 2014

Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. May 23, 2014.

Remember the ‘purpose of public funding’

The Iowa Board of Regents is considering a formula aimed at better equalizing how funding is distributed to the three regent universities.

It would tie 60 percent of state dollars allocated for public universities to Iowa resident students. That could mean about $31 million more annually for the University of Northern Iowa.

“From our point of view, it makes sense to tie Iowa tax dollars to higher education for Iowa students,” said Scott Ketelsen, director of university relations for UNI.

Under such a formula, the University of Iowa, with just 54 percent resident students, could lose up to $60 million in annual funding.

“The proposed ‘one-size-fits-all’ budget model creates an altogether needless ‘family feud’ that can only minimize differences among the three schools, differences that are critical to strength and vitality of each,” said Ed Wasserman, a psychology professor and former president of the UI faculty senate.

As long as this particular proposal remains viable, we expect to hear further cries of “foul” from any institution that would be impacted in a negative way. Frankly, however, those cries will be coming from those who have been dining on the meaty end of the drumstick for a long time.

We have long been aware UNI gets short shrift in the current funding formula. UNI depends on revenues from in-state tuition more than the other two universities. Back-to-back in-state tuition freezes have hit UNI harder. Nearly 90 percent of UNI’s enrollment comes from within Iowa’s borders. It’s time to seek a long-term solution, instead of depending on one-time Legislature-approved influxes, then facing the same problem down the road.

The regents had previously established a task force to study the issue. The argument is UNI traditionally receives about 20 percent of the state appropriation and ISU and UI got 40 percent each.

That’s even though UNI serves a much higher percentage of students from within the state of Iowa, who pay lower tuition rates than out-of-state students.

We would have to agree with a statement earlier this month from former regent David Miles, who is chairman of the task force.

“The purpose of public funding is so resident students don’t have to pay (the) entire cost of tuition if they go to a public university,” Miles had said. “We think there should be a closer tie to changing enrollment patterns.”

Somewhere along the line, that “purpose of public funding” has been lost, and UNI has suffered the most.

Allocating a larger percentage of state taxpayer dollars to Iowa state institutions, based on the amount of Iowa resident students.

Story Continues →