The University and Its Environment
February 20, 1995


This section merges two components of the 1989 environmental report, Demographic Context and Student Body, both of which were concerned with student enrollment patterns, diversity, and financial aid. Focusing on the last 10 years, this new section examines (1) history and projections for entering students; (2) enrollment patterns for undergraduate, graduate, and professional categories and by college; (3) the geographical, ethnic, disability status, age, and academic characteristics of students; and (4) student financial aid.

Entering Students
High school graduates

The primary factor driving enrollment numbers at institutions of higher education is, of course, the annual number of new high school graduates. As Table 4.1 shows, Iowa and surrounding states have experienced a decline in the number of graduating high school seniors since 1979. The effect of the decline in annual high school graduates has been ameliorated by increases in the proportion of graduates attending post-secondary institutions, but that trend has leveled off. Past projections accurately indicated a decline of high school graduates through 1992, which was reflected in UI undergraduate enrollments, as well as a modest increase now expected through the end of the century. Based on the anticipated growth in high school graduates, the Board of Regents projects a gradual increase in undergraduate enrollments to about 5% above 1993 levels. (In fact, although total Fall 1994 enrollments declined slightly, entering freshmen increased by 105, or 3.2 percent.) After 2000, early estimates suggest a stable or declining number of high school graduates in Iowa and the region.

Transfer students

The number of students transferring to The University of Iowa from other in-state institutions has remained remarkably stable over the past ten years. In the fall of 1983, 902 in-state students transferred to UI undergraduate programs, and 344 to UI graduate and professional programs. In the fall of 1993, the comparable numbers were 893 and 347. At the undergraduate level, the transferring students are a significant addition to the approximately 3300 entering freshman and can have a great impact on upper division courses. The relatively constant numbers conceal a shift in the origin of the students: in 1983, 232 were from private four-year colleges in Iowa and 498 from two-year area and community colleges; in 1993, 161 were from private colleges and 580 from community colleges. Over the past few years, UI has made an effort to smooth the transition for transfer students through "articulation agreements" specifying course equivalents and program requirements for most Iowa colleges. Consequently, although fewer students are changing from private schools, more students are moving on to the University from community colleges to complete their degrees. From 1990 to 1993, 17.7 percent of students receiving Iowa community college associate degrees enrolled at UI. The graduate numbers show that Iowa also receives a significant proportion of its new graduate and professional students from Iowa undergraduate colleges.
In the future, The University of Iowa will continue to compete with many other institutions for graduates of Iowa community colleges and for other students who begin their post-secondary education elsewhere. Ease of transfer, exposure to distance learning opportunities, familiarity with UI programs and requirements, and outreach activities all influence the University's success in attracting upper-level undergraduate students. It may be desirable to develop articulation agreements for selected technical associate degrees similar to those now in place for Associate of Arts degrees. Outreach to out-of-state students will continue to be an important way of maintaining desirable enrollment levels, particularly after 2002 when the pool of projected in-state students is expected to diminish.

Enrollment Patterns (1984-93)

Table 4.2 contains the total enrollment and enrollment by "student level" from 1984 to 1993. Total enrollment decreased by 9 percent from 1984 to 1993. But most of the loss occurred at the undergraduate level: the number of undergraduate students decreased by approximately 15 percent, while graduate enrollment increased by 9 percent, and professional enrollment grew by 5 percent. Examining the patterns of change over time indicates that undergraduate enrollments have decreased by 3500, returning to the levels of the early 1980s, midway through a period of rapid growth. Graduate and professional enrollments have shown very slow growth over the past 15 years (less than 1% per year) and are likely to maintain that pattern or hold steady for at least the near future. The relative proportion of students in the three categories has remained remarkably stable over the period, even with enrollment shifts. The proportion of undergraduates has varied from a low of 66.2 percent in 1978 to a peak of 72.8 percent in 1985 (67.6% in 1993), the proportion of graduate students from 24.3 percent in 1979 to 19.8 percent in 1985 (23.8% in 1993), and professional students from 7.4 percent in 1985 to 9.6 percent in 1978 (8.5% in 1993). In brief, the pattern of student enrollments in the 1990s is very similar to the pattern that characterized the University before the large undergraduate increases in the early 1980s.

Enrollment by college

The enrollment changes vary considerably across colleges, as indicated in Table 4.3, which reports enrollments over the past ten years. Considering changes since 1988, there have been decreases in Business Administration (-29.7% in undergraduate enrollments and -22.2% in graduate students), Education (-25.4% undergraduates), and Liberal Arts (-12.1% undergraduates), with most of the other colleges remaining essentially stable or growing slightly. The change in Business Administration probably reflects a return to pre-1980 enrollment levels after a decade of rapid growth in student demand. The reduction in undergraduate enrollments in the College of Education corresponds to the national shift to graduate-level training for teacher preparation. The College of Nursing--contrary to national trends and reversing its own trend over the previous five years--has grown 27.2% in undergraduate enrollments and 48.4% in graduate enrollments.
College enrollment trends must be interpreted with caution because they sometimes mask dramatic shifts within colleges. For example, over the ten-year period reported in Table 4.3, majors in five large departments (Biological Sciences, English, History, Psychology, and Sociology) grew by 89% (from 1586 to 2993, representing 40% of the declared majors in the college). Majors in three other large departments (Communication Studies, Computer Science, and Journalism) dropped by 47% (from 2438 to 1290). These shifts, which occur for many reasons, place enormous pressures on resource allocation within colleges.
The percentage of total University enrollment from each college, based on the information in Table 4.3, is presented below (because undergraduates in Education are also included in Liberal Arts, the figures add to more than 100 percent):
College . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1988 . . . . . . . . . . .1993 .
Business Adm . . . . . . . . . .7.4% (2,177) . . . . . . 5.9% (1,585)
Dentistry . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1.2% (349) . . . . . . . .1.3% (360)
Education . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8.1% (2,331) . . . . . .7.3% (1,974)
Engineering . . . . . . . . . . . .5.8% (1,682) . . . . . . 6.2% (1,681)
Law . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2.2% (644) . . . . . . . .2.5% (682)
Liberal Arts . . . . . . . . . . .68.5% (20,019) . . . . . 66.5% (17,999)
Medicine . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6.3% (1,851) . . . . . .7.2% (1,958)
Nursing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1.6% (481) . . . . . . . .2.4% (646)
Pharmacy . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1.5% (432) . . . . . . . .1.8% (487)

Graduate enrollment

Within the sixfold categorization of subject areas designated by the Graduate College--education, humanities, social sciences, physical sciences, engineering, and biological sciences--several trends may be discerned (see Table 4.4). For a variety of reasons, there continue to be long-term fluctuations in the proportion of graduate students pursing degrees in the various discipline areas. In the last five years, for example, there has been a noticeable decrease in the proportion seeking degrees in education, largely as a consequence of efforts to bring student-faculty ratios in line with University norms. There have been smaller decreases in the social sciences and physical sciences, balanced by a significant increase in students pursuing biological science degrees and a small increase in engineering. Enrollments in the humanities have been relatively stable over the past five years.
Table 4.5 compares the undergraduate and graduate enrollments for public institutions of the Big Ten. These data indicate that Iowa has the smallest overall enrollment (undergraduate plus graduate) among this group, but the proportion of graduate students is the fourth highest among Big Ten public institutions--and only slightly lower than that of Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan. If we take the proportion of graduate students as an indicator for the degree of commitment to graduate education, The University of Iowa is currently in a fairly competitive position.
After declining through the early 1980's, applications for graduate school increased by 32% between 1988 and 1993. Most of this increase was due to applicants coming from the United States, a 60% increase between 1988 and 1993 as compared with a 3% increase in foreign applicants over the same period. These changes in the pool of applicants are reflected in the composition of the graduate student body. International graduate student enrollment decreased slightly from 1988 to 1993 (1350 vs. 1334), while enrollment by domestic students increased from 4934 to 5116. Although the late 1980s and early 1990s showed a substantial increase in the number of applicants, with a corresponding though smaller increase in enrollment, the increases appear to be leveling off. Stable enrollments are expected for the next few years.

Student Characteristics

The student body is becoming more diverse in terms of geographic origin, racial and ethnic heritage, age, and disability status, and its quality is rising in terms of academic qualifications.

Geographical origin of students

An examination of the geographical origin of students (both undergraduate and graduate) sheds further light on enrollment patterns. Since 1988, the year the University began stepping up its efforts to attract a larger pool of applicants, the historically narrow profile of the out-of-state student body has broadened slightly (see Table 4.6). Over this same period, in both absolute and relative terms, the enrollment of in-state students has decreased, as would be expected in view of the declining numbers of graduating high school seniors in Iowa (again, see Table 4.1). The number of in-state students decreased by 12.1 percent from 1988 to 1993, while the percentage of Iowans among all students at the University declined from 69.3 percent in 1988 to 65.8 percent in 1993, reflecting, in part, the University's expanded outreach efforts. The percentage of students from Illinois has stabilized in recent years at just under 15 percent, while the number of students from other states adjoining Iowa has steadily increased, along with enrollments from more distant states and foreign countries. Without those increases total enrollments would have decreased by an additional 600 students over the past five years and by 1000 students over the past decade, representing a significant decrease in tuition revenues and student diversity. Although The University of Iowa remains a highly regional institution, it has made some progress in broadening the geographical distribution of its student body, with growth in its non-Iowa-Illinois enrollments rising from 14.2% in 1984 to 15.9% in 1989, and to 19.4% in 1993.
While enrollment of foreign graduate students has steadily increased over the past decade, the number of international undergraduate students has decreased (Table 4.7). Consequently, Iowa undergraduates are more likely to encounter individuals from other countries as teaching assistants, instructors, and professors rather than as peers. Increasing the number of undergraduates from outside the United States would contribute to the ethnic diversity of the student body while contributing to the international awareness of local students.

Ethnic and racial diversity of the student body

It is well known that the proportion of minorities in the college-age population will continue to increase over the next 10 years and accelerate thereafter. By the year 2025, minorities will represent nearly 40 percent of the college-age population in the United States. Colleges and universities throughout the country are competing to increase their proportion of minority students, both to increase opportunities for this underserved part of the American population and to insure the future survival of their institutions as demographics change.
Minorities account for 24.4% of the U. S. population, but only 3.4% of the population of Iowa. The percentage of minorities in Iowa is growing slowly and is expected to reach 5.2% in 2015. The fastest growing ethnic group in Iowa is Asian-Americans.
As with geographical distribution, the ethnic and racial segments of the UI student profile have been narrow. Table 4.7 shows the student enrollment by ethnic category for the last 10 years, broken down by student level (undergraduate and postgraduate). Several patterns are worthy of note: The University has made considerable gains in total minority enrollment over the past five years, particularly in comparison to the previous five years. From 1984 to 1988, the percentage of minority enrollment grew from 4.9% to 6.0% and then to 8.3% in 1993. The number of African-American students changed little from 1984 to 1988, but since has grown by 64%; similar trends are evident for other ethnic groups. Fall 1994 enrollment figures indicate that the trend toward improved diversity has continued; 9.0 percent of all students were members of racial/ethnic minorities, and most minority categories showed gains. However, absolute numbers remain small and continuing efforts are required to recruit and retain a diverse student body.

Students with disabilities

Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 has had a noticeable impact on facilities and services at The University of Iowa reinforced by the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Under the broadened mandates of the ADA, students with disabilities are more aware of their civil rights and are often ready to articulate those rights. The need for further physical plant modifications to accommodate individuals with physical disabilities may be the most visible adjustment the University needs to make, but other changes to promote accessibility are also required and necessary. Particularly challenging may be the University's ability to provide accommodation for students with non-visible disabilities, such as learning disabilities, brain injuries, and psychiatric disabilities. UI instructors need to be better informed about their obligation to provide reasonable accommodation for students with disabilities. Workers with disabilities are becoming a more important component of the workforce, particularly the well-educated sector, so the University must take an active role in recruiting, educating, and preparing students with disabilities for the competitive workplace.
The University has more students with disabilities than it did five years ago, many of these disabilities are non-visible. In 1989, 392 students were served by Student Disabilities Services; in 1994, the number was 609, a 55 percent increase. The largest increases have been in students with cognitive and emotional disabilities, from 150 in 1989 to 389 in 1994. Students with mobility and sensory disabilities have decreased over the same period from 148 to 112.
The UI's experience mirrors national trends. The American Council of Education's annual survey of college freshmen shows an increase in self-disclosed disabilities from 2.6% in 1978 to 8.8% in 1991. Since 1985, the percentage of students citing learning disabilities has grown the fastest, increasing from about 15% to 25% of all disabled students.

Age distribution of students

The slow but noticeable trend toward an increasing mean age of the student body has continued over the past five years, with 30% of all enrolled students, and about 12% of undergraduates, over age 25. The trend results from many factors, including the return of many older "non-traditional" students to the campus. Many students who hold part-time jobs are older than the traditional age by the time they graduate. It is now less unusual for students to interrupt the transition from an undergraduate degree to a graduate or professional program by "taking a year or two off" from academic pursuits, often in order to gain work experience or to build up savings for postgraduate education.
An older student body has many consequences for the University, ranging from needs for different kinds of housing and child care to demand for classes scheduled at different times. More mature students are more likely to be employed, to have families, to be part-time students, and to have interests and concerns that place new demands on University resources.

Academic qualifications of students

The University of Iowa is required to admit all graduating seniors in the state who are in the upper 50 percent of their class and meet all other academic admission requirements. Most of our peer institutions have much more restrictive requirements and are often viewed as more competitive than Iowa. Despite Iowa's smaller percentage of students who rank in the upper 10 or 20 percent of their graduating classes, academic quality has risen by some measures. For example, Iowa has increased the required level of academic preparation for its entering students in recent years, reducing the need for remedial courses. Emphasis on strong pre-collegiate preparation may be correlated with other indicators of quality. As a recent dissertation in the College of Education documents (Lancaster, 1994), students who graduate in four years have higher high school grade-point averages, class ranks, and ACT composite scores. They also took more English, mathematics, and natural science courses while in high school than did students who took five or six years to graduate.
Among undergraduate students, the average ACT scores of entering freshmen have improved over the last five years (see Table 4.8). While the median ACT score has not changed, the mean has increased steadily from 23.4 in 1984 to 23.7 in 1989 to 24.5 in 1993. The proportion of freshmen with ACT scores of 28+ has increased from 14.9% in 1989 to 21.4% in 1993. Also, the proportion of students with ACT scores below 18 has decreased from 7.5% to 2.1%. While some of these improvements can be attributed to increases in average scores in ACT, the data also suggest improved selectivity.
Among graduate students, as in the recent past, the average GRE score is consistently above the national norms. The GPA of entering graduate students has not changed over the last 15 years. The Graduate College recently concluded an assessment of each graduate program in terms of its Iowa and national competitiveness. Although there are program variations, the overall academic credentials of entering graduate students remain steady at slightly above the national norm.

Student Financial Aid

During the 1993-94 academic year almost 75 percent of University of Iowa students received some form of financial aid, up from the 60 to 65 percent that characterized support levels during the 1980s. There are three basic sources of student financial aid--federal, state, and institutional--each encompassing several specific programs. In each of the three categories the funding levels over the last ten years are listed below (in millions of dollars):
Year. . . . . . .Federal. . . . . . State. . . . . Institutional. . . . . . . . . .Total
1983-84. . . . .42. . . . .. . . . .0.4. . . . .. . . . .35. . . . .. . . . .. . . . . 78
1984-85. . . . .45. . . . .. . . . .0.8. . . . .. . . . .40 . . . . .. . . . .. . . . .85
1985-86. . . . .43. . . . .. . . . .0.7. . . . .. . . . .41 . . . . .. . . . .. . . . .86
1986-87. . . . .43. . . . .. . . . .0.7. . . . .. . . . .43 . . . . .. . . . .. . . . .87
1987-88. . . . .39. . . . .. . . . .1.4. . . . .. . . . .50. . . . .. . . . .. . . . . 90
1988-89. . . . .40. . . . .. . . . .1.6. . . . .. . . . .62. . . . .. . . . .. . . . .103
1989-90. . . . .43. . . . .. . . . .1.7. . . . .. . . . .65. . . . .. . . . .. . . . .110
1990-91. . . . .45. . . . .. . . . .2.3. . . . .. . . . .70. . . . .. . . . .. . . . .117
1991-92. . . . .49. . . . .. . . . .2.3. . . . .. . . . .72. . . . .. . . . .. . . . .123
1992-93. . . . .53. . . . .. . . . .2.2. . . . . . . . . . 6. . . . .. . . . .. . . . .131
Over the past five years, the total amount of financial aid across all three categories has increased by 45 percent, with greater increases in institutional aid than in aid from state or federal sources. During the past twenty years, the bulk of institutional assistance has been provided by Tuition Set Aside funds; for the past ten years approximately 15.8 percent of tuition revenue has been used for scholarships and grants. For the 1992-93 academic year, 71 percent of institutional aid was for part-time student employment and teaching and research assistantships, and 18 percent was for grants and scholarships. In that year, 73 percent of aid from federal sources was for student loans, 24 percent for grants, and 3 percent for work-study funding. Forty-four percent of the state aid was for the state work-study program.
Nationally, the cost of attending college has increased faster than disposable personal income over the past nine years, in both current and constant dollar comparisons. Over this period, average U.S. disposable income has increased 56%; similar to national trends, the cost of attending The University of Iowa, for a student living in a residence hall, increased by 71%, a gap of 15% between cost of attendance and family income, in current dollars. The widening gap between the cost of attendance and the average family's ability to pay for college directly affects the need for financial aid. For several years The University of Iowa has raised the amount of the Tuition Set Aside allocation by approximately the amount of annual average percent of tuition increase, but these adjustments fall short of the need.
The availability and award of scholarships in various forms plays an increasing role in the competition for new students, particularly well-qualified minority students. Academic scholarships often are used by competing institutions to attract highly-recruited students. Cultural diversity costs. Attracting the best Iowa students costs. Maintaining competitive enrollment programs requires planning and effort from many University offices.
In allocating financial aid, a delicate balance reflecting institutional goals must be struck between consideration of "need" and "merit." Aid delivered on the basis of financial need is required to maintain accessibility to the institution for as large a portion of the Iowa population as possible; aid given for merit represents an attempt to attract highly qualified students to improve the academic quality of the institution. The University of Iowa now offers very little in the way of true merit-based awards not dependent on financial need.

Educational Changes

A number of societal changes, reform movements, and demographic changes may profoundly affect higher education during the next few years and into the next century. At this time it is impossible to determine which of these movements and shifts will influence the daily functioning of the University and which will pass unnoticed, but it will be wise to monitor these trends carefully in the coming years.
One movement bases curricular planning and programmatic changes on "student outcomes assessment." The University has had protocols for outcomes assessment in place in each undergraduate department for two years. It is expected that future accreditation reviews will evaluate the use and success of assessment measures. We can expect to be asked to demonstrate how academic courses and programs produce specific student skills, knowledge, and competencies. Other influences on the shape of future higher education range from the increasing diversity of university students to more globalization of academic disciplines, the growth of interdisciplinary programs, and technological innovations, particularly in terms of communication and access to information.
Various secondary school "reform movements" may affect the qualifications and expectations that students bring to the University. At a minimum, more students will be comfortable with computer technology and expect to use computer-based educational resources in their programs. At the level of individual departments and programs, we must prepare to deal with students with different skills and expectations than their predecessors.
Nationally, concern has been expressed over the lengthening of the average time taken to complete degrees. Longer times to complete degrees can be a consequence of economic factors (the need to work for financial support), changing interests (switching from one major to another), or inaccessibility of required courses. This last factor was a concern during the 1980's but has not been an important factor over the past five years. Proposals to shorten undergraduate degree programs from four to three years have been raised at some institutions, but have not been considered at Iowa.


Based on high school graduates in Iowa and the region, and on the consistent pattern of transfer students, the University can expect undergraduate enrollments to hold steady or to grow slowly over the next five years. By increasing its recruitment of students outside the region, the University has the opportunity to increase its geographical and ethnic breadth as well as enhance the overall quality of applicants, while maintaining its primary mission of serving Iowa students. Enrollment will require careful monitoring and management in order to insure a qualified, prepared, diverse student body. Maintaining access to the University through student financial aid remains a challenge to the resources of the school; balancing merit considerations with financial need in allocating scholarship funds could attract more highly qualified students. Educational reform both in the high schools and at the University will affect the qualifications, expectations, and academic progress of future students.