KWWL.com Extra: Mason's comments to the Iowa Board of Regents - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

KWWL.com Extra: Mason's comments to the Iowa Board of Regents

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) - University of Iowa President Sally Mason shared the following update about how the UI is preparing for unprecedented challenges resulting from the current economic situation with the Iowa Board of Regents on Thursday.

President Mason's Update to the Board of Regents

Like our sister universities, the University of Iowa is preparing for unprecedented challenges resulting from the current economic situation.

Despite the challenges, we are absolutely committed to preserving our top priorities of education, research, creative excellence and outstanding patient care. We have counseled our deans that we must maintain the highest quality standards for their core functions - standards that have helped the University of Iowa become known as one of the nation's premier public research and educational institutions - and yet we know that budget cuts of the magnitude that we are facing are not made easily or without consequences.

We will work to protect certain critical areas. These include student financial aid, library acquisitions, research funding, and the growth of emerging centers of excellence that represent the future of science and industry as well as arts and culture. And, we will support pioneering initiatives, including our new certificate in sustainability studies, which will be offered beginning this fall.

Our efforts to preserve our core excellence and integrity will require significant shared work. This will be challenging, just as the flood has challenged us. And just as the unprecedented challenges of the flood are providing new and unique opportunities, we look to this budget crisis to also provide extraordinary opportunities, including opportunities to grow stronger over time.

Most importantly, I want to focus today on what we are prepared to do to make certain that students can and will continue to come to the University of Iowa regardless of their financial circumstances. We cannot abandon the roughly 3,900 undergraduate students to whom we grant need-based scholarships each year, funded through university resources. These students represent close to 20% of our total undergraduate enrollment.

We know that in this economy, more than ever, the University of Iowa's financial aid may mean the difference between attending a world-class research institution like the University of Iowa, or not going to college at all.

As I have mentioned in the past, nearly 80% of our undergraduate students receive some financial aid from federal, state, University, and private sources. Providing access is a high priority for the UI and is central to our strategic enrollment goals. We meet the full financial need of all undergraduate dependent Iowa students who annually complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid form (FAFSA form). This need is met through a combination of scholarships, grants, work-study and low interest federal loans available to students and parents.

This year we allocated close to $29.5 million to support undergraduate grants and scholarships. Despite our budget challenges, next fiscal year we will increase this support by $3 million to approximately $32.7 million.

In addition, thanks to the generosity of people from around the world who contributed to our flood relief fund, we will be doing some very special things for students in music and art, programs that were profoundly affected by last summer's flood. $100,000 has been committed to the School of Music to enable continued recruitment of the most promising young musicians into our undergraduate music programs. The Office of Financial Aid has been able to supplement this $100,000 with an additional $70,000 to be used for Music Excellence Award scholarships for new students beginning in the next academic year. Similarly, an additional $100,000 in scholarship monies is included in a grant application being prepared for the National Endowment for the Arts.

At the graduate level, the Graduate College, in consultation with the School of Art and Art History, the Division of Performing Arts, the School of Music, and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has developed a plan for supporting the graduate education of arts students whose programs were displaced by the flood. A total of $325,000 will support students who have a variety of needs that have been enhanced or exacerbated by the disruption created by last summer's flood.

In all, nearly half a million dollars of our flood relief money will be used to help music and art students - again, all thanks to our generous donors.

As we look ahead to next year, I anticipate a freshman class that may be the best prepared that we have ever seen. Diversity will increase and international student enrollment will likely reach a record high once again.

Our efforts to attract more low-income, first-generation and under-represented students through the strategic use of financial aid and scholarships have been successful: Advantage Iowa awards are up almost 12%. Also, our efforts to attract high achieving non-resident students have produced a 17.5% increase in offers of the National Scholars Award scholarships.

Concern among students and parents about meeting college costs in this uncertain economy have been well-documented in the national press and in what students and parents tell us directly. The kinds of students we have in our admitted pool are among the most competitive in the state and country. They have choices and our Financial Aid and Admission staffs are working overtime to help us bring as many of these students to Iowa as possible.

Which brings me finally back to the budget: Tuition and state appropriations are the primary revenue sources for the General Education Fund which is the backbone of our University budget.

We have no illusions about the difficult task ahead with regard to building a responsible budget in the wake of significant cuts to our base. While the University of Iowa colleges and enterprises continue to work on their plans to manage the Fiscal 2010 budget cuts, I have appointed six central task forces to explore potential cost savings that could have an impact University-wide. These task forces are considering, for example:

  • Human resources-related options, such as early retirement and phased retirement plans, the feasibility of furloughs, temporary reductions in pay, and reductions in career development awards.
  • Reallocations of planned capital expenditures to ensure that flood and non-flood related expenses are managed as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.
  • Reductions in financial support for non-academic enterprises that receive funding from the university general fund.
  • Identification of untapped potential for reductions in energy costs, through such measures as changes in building lighting levels and the adoption of building scheduling plans aimed at reducing energy use.
  • Savings in facilities and grounds maintenance; and
  •  Organizational changes, including consolidation of departmental administrative staffs, increased faculty teaching loads in some areas, program reductions and class size changes.

We are examining every program and function at the University of Iowa for potential long-term savings. My administration, the colleges and each department will consider ALL options. Complete plans to address our FY 2010 budgets will not be finalized until precise funding levels from State appropriations and the Federal stimulus bill are determined.

So, while we, like all Americans, must tighten our belts, I believe we cannot hesitate when it comes to investing in our mission as a public university. We must work together to ensure that students now and into the future are given the best opportunities:

  • to learn and grow;
  • to fuel the ongoing discoveries that will ultimately save and improve human lives;
  •  to support greater understanding of our lives and the world;
  •  and to create a culture where we become more responsible stewards of the environment - to protect ourselves, our children and their children.

Investments in higher education are critical and will return dividends in many forms for the remainder of this century and beyond.

Online Producer: Jason Mortvedt

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