University of Northern Iowa President Mark Nook said a proposed mid-year funding cut for the University of Iowa and Iowa State University but not the University of Northern Iowa reflects each university’s distinct mission, not favoritism.

“I guess I don’t see it quite as a favored but as an understanding of the differences in the three institutions’ missions, and making sure that the funding fits the mission,” Nook said in an IowaWatch Connection radio program interview.

University of Northern Iowa President Mark Nook Credit: University photo

A Senate budget proposal working its way through the Iowa Legislature calls for cutting state Board of Regents’ spending by $14.6 million between now and June 30. An Iowa House plan would trim that to a little more than $8 million if UNI is spared any mid-year cuts.

Almost 89 percent of UNI’s 11,905 fall 2017 tuition-paying students were from Iowa. “So, we can’t raise the same level of dollars from non-resident students,” Nook said, referring to raising tuition to cover lost state dollars.

At the U of I, 56.2 percent of the 32,166 students in fall 2017 were from Iowa. At ISU, 54.6 of the 35,993 students were from Iowa, the state regents fall 2017 enrollment report shows.

Moreover, he said, roughly 85 percent of Iowa students and one-half of out-of-state students who come to UNI stay in the state for their first jobs, giving UNI a mission aimed distinctly toward Iowans.

The Iowa Senate has approved cutting mid-year spending by more than $33 million while the House favors $33 million to bring this budget year’s funding into line with anticipated revenue. Gov. Kim Reynolds has proposed $34.5 million in cuts.

A Holstein, Iowa, native, Nook left a job as Montana State University Billings chancellor to become the University of Northern Iowa’s 11th president on Feb. 1, 2017. He said Iowa has a strong commitment to education, despite the recent budget cuts.

“Higher education’s often looked to because we’re one of the few state agencies that has an alternative revenue source, as they like to say, which is another way of saying higher tuition for our students,” he said. “And that’s always a difficult conversation for me because I want to make sure that every student in the state has an opportunity to get a great education.”

The full interview with Nook is in this IowaWatch Connection podcast.

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