University of Iowa officials employ consultant to spur growth

‘Everything is on the table’

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July 28, 2014 | 6:21 pm

IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa must enroll thousands more in-state students in the coming years to avoid losing tens of millions in state funding, and officials are looking at building a second new residence hall to accommodate that anticipated growth.

UI already is constructing a $53 million residence hall on the west side of campus that is slated to open in fall 2015 and house 501 students. To match its growth goals, the university will ask permission to build another new hall on the east side of campus.

Tom Rocklin, vice president for student life, said UI is planning to go to the Board of Regents in the next few months to propose another large residence hall — to accommodate 700 beds — on a site next to the North Campus Parking Ramp, behind Burge Hall along the Iowa River.

“That is a very promising site,” Rocklin said. “It’s close to the river, but it wouldn’t flood. It’s higher than it looks.”

The campus will need more dining capacity to meet on-campus student demands, and Rocklin said officials are exploring whether to expand the Burge dining hall or add one in the new facility.

There are not yet cost estimates associated with a new residence hall because there are no designs in place.

“But we would like to move quickly on this,” Rocklin said. “We would be hopeful of having a building to occupy by 2018.”

Funding metrics

The university is seeking to hire an outside consultant to help it meet enrollment growth goals that come in response to a new Board of Regents model for allocating state dollars. The new funding metrics, which tie 60 percent to in-state enrollment, are set to roll out over a three-year period beginning in the 2016 budget year.

If implemented over one year, UI could lose $47.8 million.

To lessen the impact, the board capped the amount of money that can move from university to university each year at 2 percent of the 2013 budget — meaning UI could lose $12.9 million a year, if enrollment figures remain unchanged.

The university is hoping to boost in-state enrollment to turn the new funding metrics into a positive, and it is employing a consultant to help strengthen enrollment management strategies, admissions practices, and marketing methods.

The consultant also will review the university’s building and classroom use and efficiency and how UI offers financial aid, university spokesman Joseph Brennan said.

UI historically has offered larger financial aid awards to fewer people than the other universities, and Brennan said UI officials might revisit that strategy.

“Everything is on the table,” he said.

Rocklin said UI will review its room-and-board costs as it studies strategies to grow — right now the UI’s $9,389 rates are “a bargain” in the Big Ten but higher than both Iowa State University and University of Northern Iowa rates.

If UI meets growth aspirations, Rocklin said, it will have to lease additional housing space to keep up with student demands for on-campus housing.

“We have done that in the past, and it’s likely we will use that as part of our strategy going forward,” he said.

A third new residence hall would be on the west side of campus, but officials have not yet studied that possibility in depth.

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