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UNI announces more cuts: UNI Museum to close, athletics to lose funds

This news story was published on February 24, 2012.
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Diane Heldt, CR Gazette –

University of Northern Iowa officials, pending state regents approval, plan to reduce general fund support to athletics and close the UNI Museum building June 30 as part of budget-cutting measures aimed at saving millions annually.

Also, UNI’s Print Services will be outsourced to local printing and copying companies and the campus Print Services will close no later than June 30, saving more than $400,000 in equipment replacement costs and salary and benefits.

The cuts announced Thursday are in addition to the university’s recommended closure of the Malcolm Price Lab School, announced by President Ben Allen Wednesday, which is expected to save up to $2 million annually.

“The current economic challenges and changes taking place in higher education provide an opportunity for strategic repositioning of the University of Northern Iowa for the next decade,” Allen said in today’s statement announcing the cuts. “We want to define our own destiny rather than allow circumstances to do it for us.”

The recommended changes and cost savings will allow UNI to invest in programs where there is the greatest demand and need, officials said. UNI has for months been seeking ways to cut the budget after losing about $24 million in state funding the past several years; the university began this year with a $5 million shortfall. UNI’s enrollment is 92 percent in-state students, which means the school relies heavily on tuition dollars from Iowa students.

Elimination of a sports program is not anticipated as part of the reduction of general fund support to UNI athletics, officials said. UNI cut its baseball program in a controversial reduction several years ago.

Through a combination of expense reduction in athletics and generation of additional revenue, university support to athletics will be reduced by an additional $500,000 over the next three years, officials said. Athletic Director Troy Dannen said he will provide more detail as soon as final decisions are made.

Selected collections from the UNI Museum will be integrated into the library and department buildings. The current museum building, which officials say is in need of major repairs and renovation, will close to the public June 30. Moving the collections elsewhere on campus and the community will continue to provide research and teaching opportunities, officials said. The museum closure will save $200,000 annually, as well as save capital funds that would be required to renovate or build new.

Allen met with Price Lab faculty, staff, parents and students Wednesday in announcing his recommendation to close the school June 30. The president Wednesday announced information about other cuts the university proposes.

While the Price Lab School has long been an integral part of the strong heritage of achievement in teacher education at UNI, officials said it’s not feasible to continue to subsidize the school or invest the needed millions of dollars into improving the aging building.

Funds will be reallocated to Iowa’s Statewide Research and Development initiative for teachers, and to the UNI teacher education program.

“UNI will continue to lead the nation in teacher education by incorporating the latest research and development models in partnership with education experts, leading universities and school districts,” UNI officials said in today’s statement.

Academic program cuts and consolidations likely will be announced next week, since UNI officials are continuing to meet with faculty leaders about that process. The programs likely affected are those with low graduation rates.

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