Performance-Based Funding Editorial

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

Dear UNI Family,

Last week, Iowa State President Steve Leath and I submitted an opinion piece to newspapers statewide about Performance-Based Funding (PBF). The Iowa Legislature is currently considering appropriations to the three Regent universities for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2015. Included in this debate is PBF, the most significant change in the Regents' approach to funding in nearly 70 years.

I want to share with you some of the key messages that were used to educate legislators about PBF and the impact it would have on all three Regent universities.

The Board of Regents adopted PBF in June 2014 and made it the basis for the pending appropriations request.

Traditionally, the largest allocation of state funds has been to the University of Iowa (UI), with Iowa State University (ISU) second and the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) third. In fact, this fiscal year, the percentages are:

  • 46 percent ($230 million) to UI

  • 36 percent ($180 million) to ISU

  • 18 percent ($93 million) to UNI

This imbalance is due to the use of base-plus budgeting, which means if the legislature appropriates more money, a uniform percentage is added to the funding for UI, ISU and UNI. Continued use of base-plus funding makes an inequitable situation worse. PBF would provide a new method for allocating state dollars, which is transparent, flexible and recognizes the ever-changing enrollment demands being driven by the modern economy.

Performance-Based Funding would benefit ISU and UNI by recognizing, rather than penalizing, our enrollment of Iowans. For the first time, it would show the taxpayers of Iowa why various allocations are made to each Regent university.

PBF is a sensible plan that links funding to performance and Iowa tax dollars to Iowa students. Finally, it’s a long-term solution to a decades old funding inequity and places all three universities on a path to success by aligning variable costs with variable revenues.

The Regents didn’t adopt PBF to reward or penalize any university. Because application of the plan would shift more money to ISU and UNI, the Board requested appropriations to keep UI whole in the first year. Over time the funds would clearly track the factors Iowans consider important.

We greatly appreciate the strong leadership provided by the Board of Regents in advocating for PBF and the recent statement of support from Gov. Branstad. We’re committed to working with the legislature and the governor to ensure the adoption of Performance-Based Funding. It deserves support.

We want to continue to make UNI affordable and accessible. Please take the time to send a message to your local legislators and urge them to support performance-based funding.

The entire article can be found on the Des Moines Register Opinion page.

Bill Ruud
President