January 17, 2003
Steinke: Link our efforts to Iowans, every day
by Debra Gibson
Gary Steinke and other university leaders took time last summer to try to
erase misperceptions among state legislators about higher education funding.
Photo by Bob Elbert.|
Don't expect an increase in the university's operating budget for FY04, and
be happy if faculty and staff salary increases are at least partially funded
with state dollars.
That is Gary Steinke's recommendation for what he anticipates will come out
of the Iowa Legislature's 2003 session, which opened Jan. 13.
"Actually, that would be a pretty good outcome for Iowa State, based on the
Legislature's decisions the past two years," said Steinke, assistant to the
president and director of governmental relations.
1997 funding levels
In the past three years, the university has endured $50 million in budget
cuts, "putting us today at 1997 appropriation levels," Steinke said during a
"We will struggle for a long time to get back those $50 million in
deappropriations. And when others say these were cuts to spending increases
Iowa State had asked for, that's absolutely not the case. Our spending
levels for FY03 are less than our spending levels dating back to FY99. We
have taken real cuts to our operating budget."
As the Legislature returns to a $400 million deficit, proposed
appropriations most likely won't keep pace with legislators' recent promises
to fund state employee salaries, K-12 education initiatives and human
"And we haven't even started talking about higher education yet," Steinke
pointed out. "We've seen tuition increase by almost 40 percent the past two
years, and we're serving record enrollments. How long will this trend
continue and how much more can our students and their parents be asked to
Even so, Steinke expressed optimism at Iowa State's ability to manage these
"We'll handle it because President Geoffroy is innovative, smart and a good
strategic thinker," he said. "He has managed our cuts well -- so well that
it's difficult to show the Legislature any pain. But it's there, and it
shows up in larger classes, less research and morale problems."
While Steinke said he believes these appropriation deficiencies are the
result of declining state revenues, and not because lawmakers want regents
institutions to become more self-sufficient, he questioned the wisdom of
some funding decisions.
ISU support for economic development
"In my opinion, the last place you make cuts in a declining economy is to
those organizations that educate our state's professionals, our innovative
thinkers, our entrepreneurs," he said.
Steinke pointed to ISU's research park as an example of the university's
major contribution to the state's economic development initiatives.
"Iowa State is second in the nation in R&D100 (research and develop-ment)
awards, and when you factor out universities with medical schools, we're No.
1 in technology licenses and options, No. 1 in licenses and options
generating income, and No. 4 in patents," he said.
"And yet, Iowa State ranks 44th in the nation in total research spending. In
spite of it all, we're doing a great job. But I have to wonder: If we had
more money, how much more could we be doing?"
To bring home that point, last summer Geoffroy, Steinke and members of the
Board of Regents, State of Iowa, visited with legislators across the state.
"We provided educational materials and cleared up many funding
misconceptions," Steinke said. "It's important that everyone realize that
moneys raised by the ISU Foundation can't be used in our operating budget.
Likewise, even though we're 13th in the nation in receiving Congressionally
directed funds, those funds are earmarked and cannot be transferred to other
places in the budget."
The group also addressed perceptions that the university isn't contributing
enough to economic development initiatives.
"ISU in particular has been instrumental in starting businesses that have
spun off good-paying, high-tech jobs," Steinke countered. "More companies
than have left have stayed, which is good for Iowa. We're also poised,
through our biotech expertise, to become a national leader in this area, a
real centerpiece for biotech. We're leveraging state dollars to the maximum
extent possible, and our alumni accomplishments convince us we have a solid
track record in this area."
Salaries are sticking point
While university employees most likely are hoping for significant salary
increases for FY04, Steinke cited this very topic as one that has rankled
"The reality is that we compete on a national level for faculty, which means
we're competing with salaries common in New York and California," he
explained. "It becomes difficult to explain to a legislator why we pay
faculty $85,000 to $90,000 when the average annual salary for an Iowan is
$25,000. We try to explain that it's no accident that these faculty then
attract wonderful grants to the university, and researchers like Ed Yeung
and many others at ISU earn more R&D awards than anyone in the country."
Steinke said he realizes salary issues are quite different from the
perspective of university employees. About 75 percent of Iowa State's budget
is devoted to salaries and benefits, he said, and from 1995 to 1998, salary
increases for faculty and staff were fully funded. The past three years,
though, those increases were underfunded by the Legislature, from 30 to 50
percent each year.
"The university has to take money from other areas to fund salary
increases," Steinke said, "which becomes a real drain on programs and
facilities. Our highest priority every year is for the Legislature to fully
fund salary increases. While I do think this coming year might be a little
better, 'fully funded' isn't in the cards."
How to help
How can university employees assist Steinke in his efforts to secure
increased funding for Iowa State?
"We all need to communicate clearly and understandably what it is we do
here," he said. "We all need to be proud of the work we do here and talk
about it as much as possible. Our faculty and staff are doing world-class
work, but because we're Iowans, we don't brag. We have important successes
we need to talk about. We need to make our research accomplishments
understandable, and then go to the Legislature and explain why it's
important to Iowans.
"Help us connect everything we do here to Iowans. Every day. That would sure
Ames, Iowa 50011, (515) 294-4111
Published by: University Relations,
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