Alliance for Iowa State
-Make Your Voice Heard-

Please see below an editorial from the Des Moines Register in support of performance-based funding. If you haven't done so already, please send a message to your legislators and urge them to support performance-based funding.

One piece of unfinished business on the Iowa Legislature's agenda as it wraps up for the year is aid for the state universities. The question is not as much the amount as how the money should be allocated among the three schools.


The Iowa Board of Regents approved a new formula for allocating state aid to the universities beginning this year, but some state legislators want to scrap the proposed formula and instead allocate state aid as they see fit.


They should back off.


The regents' new formula is a fair and equitable way to distribute state aid to the three universities. It encourages the universities to recruit Iowa students while encouraging diversity and improved graduation rates.


For at least the past 70 years, the Board of Regents had doled out state aid to the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa based on each school's needs. The board then used a "base-plus" allocation policy, where any increases in state aid were added to the previous year's allocation.


Over the decades, however, that led to a growing funding imbalance.


Last year, the UI received 46 percent of the nearly $500 million in state aid, while ISU received 36 percent and UNI, 18 percent. As a result, ISU received $50 million less than its sister institution in Iowa City even though Iowa State has a larger overall enrollment and a larger enrollment of Iowa residents. UNI received just 18 percent of the total.


The disparity is even more pronounced when enrollments of in-state students are compared. Iowa received nearly $14,000 in state aid for each resident student in the fall of 2013, while Iowa State received just under $8,800 per in-state student and Northern Iowa, $8,230.


To more equitably distribute state aid, the Board of Regents appointed a five-member task force to propose a solution. The result was the new "performance-based formula" that would allocate state aid to the three universities with 60 percent of the funding based on in-state student enrollment and 40 percent based on other factors, including student progress toward graduation and numbers of minorities and low-income students.


The formula has been controversial, especially among University of Iowa supporters, because it could shift as much as $46.4 million state aid from the UI to ISU and UNI in the first year. The impact on the UI would be only $12.9 million in the first year, however, because the board capped the annual reallocation shift at 2 percent a year. What's more, the regents asked the Legislature to supplement the UI allocation to cover the full amount of the shift in the first year.


Other negative consequences may arise from this allocation formula. Competition for the declining number of in-state students could hurt Iowa's private colleges and discourage the recruiting of students from out of state. But the regents made clear the formula is not carved in stone, and the impact would be assessed every year and would be amended if necessary.


No one could argue that the previous funding process was equitable. And, unless the Legislature comes up with something better, it should allow the Board of Regents to move forward with the formula it came up with after a long and thoughtful study.  


If you haven't done so already, please send a message to your legislators and urge them to support performance-based funding.
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The Alliance for Iowa State is maintained by the Iowa State University Alumni Association. 


The Alliance for Iowa State is a coalition of Iowa State University alumni, parents, students, faculty, staff, and friends.

The Alliance advocates Iowa State University's land grant mission throughout Iowa while focusing its advocacy on

state legislators and public policy makers.