Strategic Plan Chapter4.html

Achieving Distinction 2000:

A Strategic Plan For The University Of Iowa

Chapter 4. Assumptions about the Environment

This chapter is based on an analysis of the internal and external environment of the University. For background information, see the report, "The University and Its Environment" in Appendix B. These statements are labeled "assumptions" in order to communicate their interpretive, inferential nature. Strategic planning makes the development of such judgments important and continual monitoring of the environment essential; several changes have been made from the original plan. For this planning cycle, the assumptions were as follows:
I. The pool of high school graduates from Iowa will increase slightly over the next five years and remain stable or slightly decline during the five years following.
Projections about enrollment trends, particularly those based on the state and the surrounding region, have been quite accurate over the past two decades, and the present projections are consistent with predictions made five years ago. The proportion of high school graduates attending college is no longer increasing. There is evidence that cost considerations play an increasing role in the selection of a college by students and their parents.
II. The size of the student body can be controlled by managing its composition.
The present levels of in-state student enrollments permit continued recruitment of out-of-state, nontraditional, and international students, within the capacity limits of the University. A comprehensive enrollment plan, based largely on determination by colleges and programs of optimum student enrollment levels, can stabilize the composition of the student body and improve the effectiveness of student programs and services.
III. The ethnic, racial, national, and experiential background of students will change.
The well-documented shift in demographics in the American population has already affected enrollment patterns at The University of Iowa, and the pace of change is likely to accelerate over the next few years.
IV. The psychological, health, and safety needs of students, staff, and faculty will present an increasing challenge to the institution.
Health care plans for students and employees will require careful attention from the University while health care and insurance reforms continue. Needs for counseling and supportive services will increase. The safety of all members of the University community will continue to be a concern.
V. The proportion of students with physical, sensory, or cognitive disabilities will increase.
Nationally, the percentage of entering students with self-disclosed disabilities has more than tripled over the past 15 years. Experience at The University of Iowa mirrors national trends.
VI. The financial needs of students will affect enrollment patterns and retention.
An increasing proportion of family income is required to finance college education, leading to resistance to further tuition increases and more pressure on students to work while attending college. At the same time, federal aid programs are stable or decreasing and state support for higher education does not exceed the rate of inflation. Institutional and state sources of financial aid will become even more critical to maintain access.
VII. Continuing education and professional development programs will be more important for retaining and maintaining high-quality faculty and staff.
Competition for faculty in some disciplines and for minority faculty, staff, and students in all areas will be intense. Attracting, retaining, and developing the best qualified candidates and employees will continue to challenge the best efforts of the University. Opportunities for professional development and advancement will be an important component of retention efforts.
VIII. Technologies will play an increasingly important role in teaching and research and also in the state's efforts at economic development.
Computer, video, and telecommunications technologies will become more important to on-campus and off-campus programs, to core resources (libraries, information technology), and to the growing demand for lifelong learning. The availability of a state-of-the-art communications infrastructure will be a critical factor in attracting the best students, staff, and faculty, in improving efficiency in programs and services, and in serving the information needs of the citizens of the state and region by linking them to the global community.
IX. The physical infrastructure of the University will require special attention over the next 10 years.
There is clearly a need for improved office, classroom, and laboratory space and more funding for deferred maintenance and capital-renewal projects. If the items on the current capital requests list are financed in a timely manner, the total amount of classroom space available to the University would be adequate for present enrollment levels. However, many of the existing facilities require renovation or renewal to meet even minimum requirements and the total amount of research and other specialized space is inadequate for current needs.
X. The core resources of the University (libraries, information technology, computer equipment, laboratory instrumentation) require upgrading and enhancing.
The decline in the position of University libraries in national rankings is a key indicator that support for core instructional resources has not kept pace with peer institutions. Other resources such as computer equipment are also critical to provide students with access and experience with the tools used in the modern workplace.
XI. Increasing global interdependence will make the international dimension of teaching and research essential.
There will be a need for more international content in courses and programs and for more international research opportunities and educational experiences for faculty, students, and staff.
XII. Relations of the University with its external constituencies will remain vitally important.
The importance of monitoring federal trends in research funding will increase substantially. In order for the University to fulfill its educational mission, there will be a continuing need to pursue positive relations with Iowa's congressional delegations, state government, alumni, private donors, and institutions of higher learning in the state, nation, and world.
XIII. Accountability to the state, federal government, and other agencies will increase.
More of the University's operations will receive close scrutiny from external agencies and will require more time and effort to justify. Concerns about accreditation, conflict of interests, and ethics in research are a few examples of issues that require increasing attention from the University.
XIV. The economy of the state will improve.
Most economic indicators continue to document an upward trajectory for the state's economy and suggest modest growth over the next five years. However, state support for higher education will compete with other demands for use of state funds. Both the agricultural and nonagricultural segments of the Iowa economy have very favorable prospects over the near term, but it is unclear whether the political climate will support investment in the state's educational and physical infrastructure.
XV. The University is likely to receive steady (inflation-adjusted) levels of funding over the next few years, with additional funding provided only for well-documented, targeted, special initiatives.
It is very likely that the University will not be able to depend on external sources to fund new programs or projects in most instances. In addition to apparent resistance to real increases in state appropriations for higher education, federal grants and contracts, private contributions, and tuition are likely to show slower growth than in the immediate past. Consequently, the University will function in a no- or slow-growth budgetary environment over the next few years.
XVI. Health care reform will affect revenues generated by The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and may threaten the support base for health care education programs.
Although details are not settled, it is clear that health care reform, whether statutory or market driven, will dramatically affect the manner in which health care is funded. The long-term consequences for university-based health centers, including The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and The University of Iowa health colleges, are uncertain, but will almost certainly require new sources of income, either from health care plans, the federal government, the state government, or some combination. Maintaining the quality of care, support for educational programs, and the integrity of health care management in a rapidly changing environment will be a severe challenge to the entire University community over the next few years.
XVII. Higher education in the nation, including The University of Iowa, will face an array of challenges over the next five years.
In addition to items noted above, new challenges to higher education that are likely to affect the University include competition for students through courses delivered on electronic communication networks (the "virtual university"); secondary school reform; the need for improvement in the quality of education, especially undergraduate science and mathematics; and increasing expectations that research universities will advance international economic competitiveness. We need to be vigilant to these and other new issues that may arise from public concerns at any time.


These seventeen assumptions, derived from the more extensive analysis presented in "The University and Its Environment" (Appendix B), provide the basis for the strategies proposed in the next two chapters of the plan. The strategies attempt to recognize the conditions that will affect the University over the next five years and influence how we can make progress toward our institutional goals and objectives. There is not a one-to-one correspondence between environmental assumptions and proposed strategies. Instead, the assumptions stated here and in Appendix B increase the feasibility of some strategies and reduce the likelihood of success of others. More specific environmental conditions may also affect the strategies of first- and second-level unit plans.

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Last updated on July 17, 1995 by Campus Communications