Share this

Challenges call for cooperation

May 12, 2010
Benjamin J. Allen
Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
February 22, 2009

Benjamin Allen, University of Northern Iowa president

The University of Northern Iowa always has been proud of calling the Cedar Valley home. Equally important, we have been proud of our ability to support and enhance the development of the area. Our most recent fall enrollment was 12,908, an increase of 2.4 percent. We enjoyed an 8.7 percent increase in the enrollment of multicultural students on campus, which will further enrich the Cedar Valley. We have steadily increased our UNI faculty and work force count, which boosts economic input to the area. I can say that all of us at UNI are proud of offering a high-quality, student-focused educational experience that sets the stage for lifelong achievement and community engagement.

Today we are faced with unprecedented economic times for our state, the Cedar Valley and UNI. During the 2008-09 fiscal year, UNI has experienced budget reversions totaling 2.5 percent of our budget from the state. Even more challenging, the governor recently announced that his fiscal 2010 budget includes a 6.5 percent cut for most state agencies. UNI is working to address a total reduction of 9 percent.

Legislators have indicated these cuts could increase in size. We will learn more as the legislative session continues.

UNI has earned a strong and secure place as one of the best public comprehensive universities in the Midwest. Our tradition of excellence in undergraduate education, bolstered by the priorities we have established for this university, strengthen our commitment to students and the trust placed in us. We have a responsibility to raise the level of undergraduate achievement to ever-higher levels. We owe it to the people of Iowa to be the state leader in pre-K through 12 education

UNI's ability to assist the state with cultural, social and economic development is imperative if Iowa is to successfully compete in a global economy. Furthermore, we are committed to high levels of accessibility, sustainability and accountability.

Because of these priorities and commitments, we have taken the most prudent actions possible in strategically responding to these cuts, but the process is never easy. We cannot abandon our guiding principles just because we are in tough times.

Until we learn the full extent of state-mandated cuts, it is critical that we work together on strategic solutions. The larger the cuts, the more support we will need from our campus, the community, the governor and the Legislature to make critical decisions regarding our future. The impact of these budget cuts does not bode well for the Cedar Valley. We know that education is directly tied to economic health, and these cuts diminish our capacity to serve the community's needs.

That's why we must work collaboratively and with a common purpose. Recently, I introduced two new task forces at the university. One will focus on new cost-containment strategies, and the other will concentrate on revenue-enhancement strategies. The task forces are structured to maximize input from our institution's constituents. As an important constituent, I encourage you to send any ideas for cost-containment or revenue-enhancement to president@uni.edu. We value your input.

I recognize that the success of the university and the Cedar Valley community is in many respects mutual. We must seize the opportunity to ensure UNI and the Cedar Valley emerge from these economic challenges as strong as possible, with a sustainable future and our values intact.