CEDAR FALLS — The Iowa Board of Regents wants to know whether Iowa’s public universities have considered increases in online learning before proposing more than $200 million in building projects on the campuses.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad vetoed funding for these same projects in June, saying he feared campus overbuilding as online learning continues to grow.
“I have to ask this: have we adequately considered an online teaching component?” Regent Milt Dakovich, asked Warren Madden, Iowa State University vice president for business and finance, at a regents committee meeting Tuesday in Cedar Falls.
ISU is asking the regents to include in its five-year capital request $55 million for a new biosciences building with a total cost of $80 million. The regents will consider nearly $690 million in capital requests from Iowa’s public universities and special schools at a meeting Wednesday in Cedar Falls.
Online learning is booming at Iowa’s three public universities, with enrollment in for-credit distance education programs increasing more than 54 percent in the past five years.
But campus space is still necessary, said Beate Schmittmann, dean of the ISU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
“I think it’s important to understand you still have to bring the students back together to discuss and assimilate the material,” she said. Modern classroom space can be converted from lecture to meeting space and is equipped with technology that allows for student interaction, Schmittmann said.
Dakovich said he believes ISU, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa understand how to use classrooms in conjunction with online learning. “Our three universities have this concept down,” he said.
UI officials made their pitch for a $96 million building for the College of Pharmacy. A new building would replace a 1961 structure and allow pharmacy enrollment to increase by 15 percent, Provost Barry Butler said. The UI wants $70 million in state funding over the next five years for the project with the rest covered by private donations.
UNI is requesting nearly $33 million over five years for renovation of its Schindler Education Center.