The Board of Regents, State of Iowa met last week. The key item on the agenda was the fiscal 2013 appropriations request, which was unanimously approved as presented. It is important to note that the appropriations request needs to be approved by the Iowa General Assembly during the next legislative session.
The proposal included a 4-percent increase to the general education fund for all three public universities. That equates to $3 million for UNI. That funding will be focused in three areas: 1) undergraduate education; 2) pre-K through 12 education issues; 3) safety and security.
- The board approved a request for full salary funding for the regents institutions
- A 4-percent percent increase to UNI economic development programs, in addition to UNI's share of a $500,000 Regents' Inter-institutional Economic Development Initiative. The initiative includes the Institute for Decision Making, MyEntre.net, the National Ag-based Lubricants Center (NABL), the Metal Casting Center (MCC) and the Tallgrass Prairie Center.
- UNI will collaborate with ISU and the U of I in the $7.5 million Renewable Energy and Value-added Agriculture Initiative. The Tallgrass Prairie Center, NABL, and the MCC will be heavily involved.
- A request to continue funding the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiative and return it to the fiscal 2009 funding level of $4 million. The Iowa Mathematics and Science Education Partnership (IMSEP), headquartered at UNI, will now administer the new Governor's STEM Advisory Council.
UNI has a bright future, but it is faced with financial challenges that clearly set us apart from our sister Iowa universities. Because of UNI's high dependence on state appropriations for its general-fund budget (46.7 percent vs. 33.5 percent at UI and 35 percent at ISU), reductions in state funding carry a disproportionate impact. Therefore, the board approved a special appropriation request of $12 million, to be added to the university’s base budget -- $4 million per year for three years.
This is very positive news, but only the first step in the process. If we receive the funds, we'll use them to sustain our current operations and continue to educate Iowans who in turn serve Iowa. The funds also will allow us to make some investments to effect change that will strengthen the university.
If the funding doesn't come through, it will be much more difficult to overcome our challenges and position the university to be stronger in the long run. UNI went into this fiscal year facing a $3.6 million deficit. Then the fall enrollment was slightly lower than anticipated. The result is an additional $1 million shortfall, making our total deficit $4.6 million.
We are adjusting our plans based on this new budget figure. The additional deficit will be allocated differentially across the three university divisions and the Office of the President. We will be guided in the process by our continuing commitment to ensuring academic program quality, facilitating timely graduation and maintaining affordability, accessibility and safety of the campus.
I look forward to working with you as we forge ahead.