Iowa Alumni Magazine | April 2009 | News

Hard Times

By IAM Staff

Faced with the same tough economic situation as many Americans, University of Iowa officials prepared this spring to make difficult choices and budget cuts.

The nation's financial meltdown prompted Iowa Governor Chet Culver to ask the UI late last year to trim $7.5 million from its existing 2008-09 budget. A few months later, university officials braced themselves for the prospect of a further $17.5 million reduction in state support in 2009-10, and perhaps more in following years.

To make matters worse, the university already faces the enormous cost and challenges of recovery from last year's calamitous floods. In a letter to faculty and staff, though, Provost Wallace Loh made it clear that "budget balancing or flood recovery is a false choice. We will do both."

Even as they considered difficult options such as furloughs, salary cuts, staff layoffs, and merging or cutting programs and services, administrators pledged to protect the university's most important missions: high quality and affordable education, research, patient care, and creative excellence.

Other potential cost-cutting measures include deferring or cancelling job searches, curtailing travel on state funds, and increasing class sizes and faculty teaching loads. Six central task forces explored potential savings through efforts such as early retirement incentives, deferral of capital expenditures, and energy savings.

Administrators also invited faculty, staff, and students to contribute ideas and suggestions for ways to save money or generate revenue. To reinforce the message that individual sacrifices are likely needed for the common good, the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, announced in February that UI President Sally Mason and the heads of the other Regents institutions would forgo salary increases for FY 2010, as well as bonuses at the end of this fiscal year.

In an e-mail to the campus community, President Mason spoke in sober terms about the challenges ahead. "The decisions we will make . . . will require creative change. . . . Budget cuts of this magnitude are not made easily or without consequences," she said. "Last year's flood showed that the University of Iowa community is creative and energetic, and we will use those assets to make sure our institution remains a remarkable institution worthy of Iowans' pride."