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December 12, 2003

Geoffroy: Program losses unavoidable in next budget cut

by Anne Krapfl
During a "what if" discussion at the Dec. 16 Board of Regents, State of Iowa, meeting, leaders of the regent schools presented an early look at what further cuts in state support would mean in the year that begins July 1.

The discussion comes on the heels of a Dec. 8 announcement by the state's revenue estimating body that FY05 state revenues could be $300 million less than expenditures. Board members Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution directing the three university presidents to begin planning for reductions to their state appropriations that are proportionate to the estimated shortfall.

For Iowa State, the $300 million equals a 7.1 percent reduction in the university's operating budget, or approximately $16.1 million. By comparison, the mid-year reduction the university is addressing now totals $8.3 million.

Regents executive director Gregory Nichols said the resolution and Tuesday's discussion is the "beginning of a process to inform people of the types of reductions that would be needed if cuts of this size become real."

Geoffroy told the regents that $16.1 million at Iowa State is the equivalent of a 10 percent tuition increase, which can't be done since tuition rates for the 2004-05 year were approved in November. It also equals approximately 300 faculty and staff positions.

"A budget cut of that magnitude, given what we've already been through, almost surely would result in the elimination of some educational programs," Geoffroy said. The flexibility to implement incremental cuts is long gone from the university budget, he said.

Regents' directives
The regents' resolution includes the following directives to the university presidents:
  • Maintain quality of education to students as the top priority, even if enrollments have to be reduced or otherwise managed to maintain that quality.

  • Look for administrative efficiencies and other cost containment measures through collaboration with the other regents institutions.

  • Eliminate selected off-campus centers and outreach services for which the revenues are less than the costs. Examples could include such centers as the Lakeside Laboratory, near Okoboji, the Quad Cities and Tri-State (Sioux City) graduate centers, and the Southwest Iowa Resource Center, Council Bluffs.

  • Remove from state funding sources or increase service fees for campus activities that are not curriculum-related and serve mostly a non-student audience, with the goal of making such activities as self-supporting as possible.

  • Consider strategic cuts to academic programs, focusing on duplicative programs and high-cost programs that serve small groups of students. Geoffroy noted that three task forces, whose work will conclude early in the spring semester, already are studying this. The three are focusing on low-enrollment courses and small degree programs, organizational structures for colleges and departments, and the funding, effectiveness and ongoing existence of centers and institutes.

Geoffroy reopens differential tuition talk
Geoffroy also raised the topic of differential tuition for possible future examination, noting that it costs significantly more to educate engineers than it does English majors. Citing a 2003 study by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics, Geoffroy said the cost to provide a student credit hour for a sociology major is $124; for an electrical engineer, $359; for a chemical engineer, $472.

A fourth ISU task force is studying differential tuition options. The subject also is scheduled for discussion at the regents' February meeting.

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