Interim President Benjamin Allen delivered his Fall Address last week, highlighting student, faculty, and staff success; fundraising milestones, campus development, budget challenges, and a commitment to an enhanced campus climate.
Allen emphasized transition within the Iowa State community, noting that the Board of Regents (BOR) is expected to appoint the university's sixteenth president on Oct. 23. Among all of the recent and upcoming changes, Allen stated the university is moving in a positive direction.
"Iowa State has established itself as the school of choice in Iowa," said Allen. "Now that our rapid growth has started to level off, we can make more substantive progress in catching up with eight prior
years of record enrollment."
Even though growth has been rapid, student success metrics including retention, graduation, and placement rates remain strong.
Allen discussed other measures of success including external funding; the
Forever True, For Iowa State
campaign has raised $837 million of the $1.1 billion goal.
Allen explained that while the campaign is bringing in a significant amount of money to the university, every dollar is directed to a purpose determined by the donor. Students reap some of the biggest benefits of donor support with more than $16.5 million awarded last year in scholarships.
While there are many exciting things happening on campus, Allen stressed the importance of acknowledging challenges the university is facing such as the budget. Maintaining quality while meeting the requirements of being a land-grant institution and AAU member requires substantial resources.
Iowa State endured state funding cuts this year totaling $11.5 million. In each of the last two years, last-minute tuition increases were implemented to offset inadequate state funding. This practice is not fair to students and their families as it provides little time to prepare.
As a result, the BOR developed the Tuition Task Force. Iowa State presented its
five-year tuition plan
to improve the transparency, predictability, and, stability of setting tuition rates. Allen said he will present a formal request of next year's rates during the BOR meeting Oct. 18-19.
Though a significant tuition increase is necessary to maintain quality, the university is committed to minimizing the hardship on students. The university has placed a major emphasis on private support for scholarships. Additionally, the university has invested an additional $6.8 million in student financial aid this year. Iowa State will continue to focus on enhancing students' financial literacy to help them make informed financial decisions through the new Cyclone Cash Course financial literacy program that all first-year students must take beginning in the spring.
Iowa State will continue to advocate strongly for state support. The BOR will hold a special meeting on Sept. 25 to discuss the university's FY19 state appropriation request.
Another source for funding is cost savings, which the university has worked hard to achieve. Iowa State has been and will continue to focus on operating as efficiently as possible. Allen explained that means "making tough decisions on what we should be doing, and even tougher decisions on what we should stop doing." Over the next several weeks, Allen will be developing a plan to engage with shared governance groups to discuss reallocation efforts.
Allen closed his address by stating that he is energized by being around students.
"These students will make a difference in the world," said Allen. "And the faculty and staff are preparing them to make that difference."