Taxpayers asked to pay more for 25 percent fewer students at UNI

Glenn Gray , Guest Columnist

Editor’s Note: This article was submitted Sept. 20, 2022. According to the Board of Regents. “The Board approved FY 2024 appropriations requests totaling $630.46 million, including $32 million in incremental funding for the Higher Education General Fund.” UNI requested $4 million to address undergraduate tuition and fees as well.

Glenn Gray is a tenured university administrator with 35 years of experience in higher education including 19 years of service as an executive director and assistant vice president.

Andy Milone’s Sep. 9 article in The Courier relative to enrollment being down at the University of Northern Iowa begs the question: why should Iowa taxpayers, who already provide more than half (58 percent) of UNI’s budgeted revenue, provide even more funding to UNI when enrollment is down by 25 percent?

More specifically, the Board of Regents are requesting $35.7 million more in state funding, bringing the regents’ total funding request for the upcoming fiscal year to $611.5 million. This request includes $8 million more for UNI.

Mark Nook began serving as president of UNI on Feb. 1, 2017, when fall 2017 enrollment was 11,907 students. UNI’s enrollment has since dropped by 25 percent , a decline of 2,958 students over the past five years. Fall 2022 enrollment represents the lowest enrollment at UNI in 55 years.

To add insult to injury, UNI is already overpriced. Resident undergraduate tuition and fees at UNI, a medium size public land-grant institution, total only $832 below Iowa and Iowa State – both large public research institutions.  And according to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), the net cost and the low-income net cost to attend UNI is higher than it is to attend Iowa and Iowa State. 

Net cost reflects the cost of attending a university after scholarships and grants.

The UNI campus is already designed, staffed and financed to serve 13,000 students. It’s time for President Mark Nook and vice president for finance, Michael Hager to right the taxpayer’s sinking ship or step aside to allow more capable leadership to do so.