There are quite a number of construction projects on campus right now. While the money to build these new structures doesnt come from tuition revenues, some parents still might question the importance of new construction during a time of economic uncertainty. What would you say to them?
The construction is taking place largely out of tobacco settlement monies that the state received as its share of the recovery from the tobacco companies. The state decided to use those monies for nonrecurring capital construction. If we do not take our share of that money, it will go elsewhere in the state.
Weve also received funding from private sources, such as those that are helping to construct the journalism building, and from federal granting sources for facilities that are meeting specific needs, such as health research and the like.
Our campus is underbuilt. When I came here nearly 50 years ago, I was shocked that there was no performing arts hall. The library had just had its Phase I constructionif you can believe it, Macbride Hall served as the library, the performing arts hall, the museum, and the home of several departments. So we really were markedly underbuilt.
As our enrollment grows, we need to keep building to meet the classroom and laboratory needs of our students. We need to give them good facilities. Funds to operate these facilities come from the general education fund, which includes tuition. But obviously tuition needs to cover facilities in which we teach the students.
This past fall the University started sending letters to parents of students cited downtown for underage drinking. What are your feelings about this?
The issue of binge drinking is serious. Its serious, period, when you break the law. But its infinitely more serious when you injure yourself, and the problem of binge drinking, which is not widespread but is still a real issue, is that students injure their health and become dangerous to others. They also may require medical attention. So we have a severe health problem with which were trying to deal. The letters are a means of apprising parents of the fact that the students need some help. Obviously, we dont like to have to do this. I want to work with the student body to reduce the drinking, certainly eliminate the serious drinking, but reduce drinking generally. It is not an overwhelming problem on the campus, but it is highly visibleout of 29,000 students you could certainly find about 2,000 downtown on a Saturday night, and some of those are going to be in difficult shape. The community is unhappy about it, the University is unhappy about it, and we feel weve got a responsibility to deal with it.
The University has its highest enrollment of minority students ever this fall, which parallels its highest enrollment ever. There is also an increase of 19.4 percent of first-year students from western Iowa. What does this growth and what do these changes mean for students and for The University of Iowa?
Well, the fact that our enrollment is larger means that there is an even greater strain on our facilities and on our available faculty. Were doing everything possible to maintain high quality education, and I think were succeeding, notwithstanding the fact that the classes are larger and that weve had to eliminate a number of classes. We are very much committed to the four-year graduation plan, so that the student can get the classes needed to get through in four years.
In my own case, I coteach a large class that has about 160 students in it and is taught simultaneously in three rooms by television connection and also in three places in the stateSpencer, Davenport, and Council Bluffs. One of the reasons were teaching such a large class is that a number of these are students in the business colleges management and organization department who need the class to graduate. The others are there because they feel theres something there they can gain in terms of career preparation. So thats an example, and I think were doing well, but nevertheless its a new experience for all of us teaching this large class.
Im very happy that the enrollment is up from western Iowa, because we are the university of all Iowa. Thats another reason why Im happy there are off-campus sites where Im teaching our class because, again, we are the university of all Iowa. I also feel very strongly about the issue of diversity, because our students will live in a shrinking, increasingly diverse world and they need to be aware of and conversant with and comfortable in a diverse world.
Another large tuition increase has been proposedcan you talk about this and about what the University is doing to help students bear these increases?
Obviously, were concerned that the percentage of state appropriations to public universities is decreasing and the reliance on tuition increasing. The problem is a national phenomenon. Were going to try to reverse that trend in Iowa over the next four years, but we are also in a significant economic disjuncture as far as Iowa is concerned. I realize that many of the parents of our students are experiencing the same kind of difficulty.
As part of the tuition increase, we plan to set aside larger amounts for financial aid, because we want the University to be accessible to students. [Ed. note: The University is proposing to increase the amount of tuition set aside for student financial aid to keep a college education affordable for all qualified Iowa students. The University plans to fully fund the tuition set aside at 16 percent and then exceed that amount by $800,000, which will be focused on financial aid for continuing students. This will increase the Universitys 2003-04 tuition set-aside allocation by $4 million to a total of about $32 million.] This is not to say that students wont have to work their way through collegetheres nothing new about that but we want to be sure that if students have to borrow money, it does not become an unnecessary burden on the parents, or in the long term, on students.
What can parents do to make clear to legislators the importance of financially supporting higher education?
I think it would be helpful if every Iowa resident parent would speak to their legislator about the importance of education for their children at the Regents universities at Iowa, Iowa State, Northern Iowa, because historically weve been accessible and have had great Regents universitiesto have them priced out of the market would be a tragedy. What greater treasure do we have than Iowas talented people?
Can out-of-state parents do anything to help?
Out-of-state parents can indeed help. They can lobby their congressional delegation to maintain and advance federal tuition aid and loan funds. The major source of financial aid comes from the federal government, so all parents can lobby for keeping that up.
Anything else youd like to share with parents?
From the day I first walked on this campus, nearly 50 years ago, I thought this was a wonderful place to be an undergraduate, and I feel even more strongly about that now. I spend a lot of time with studentsI just came from a meeting with the student-body leadership about tuition increases; Sunday night I was in one of the residence halls attending a program; and I often eat lunch in the Iowa Memorial Union. Its just great to be around these young people. Theyre enthusiastic, theyre interested, theyre committed, and I think they feel that theyre at a university that is dedicated to giving them an outstanding educationits just a wonderful experience to be here.