The Old Capitol is shown on Monday, July 25, 2016. Within the next few days construction crews will begin replacing deteriorated pieces of this historic building. (The Daily Iowan/Brooklynn Kascel)

Guest Opinion: Iowa will face challenges in recovering from disinvestment in education


Disinvesting in universities ultimately causes the loss of innovation and discovery that lie at the heart of graduation education.

After almost 20 years in graduate education, I continue to be amazed by the world-class research and scholarship conducted by University of Iowa students and faculty. As an Iowan, I’m grateful that my children had access to top-quality education and proud that they were educated at Iowa regent institutions. All three benefited from the support of high quality faculty who cared deeply about their welfare and success.

Yet alarming disinvestment in higher education is happening across the nation and in the state of Iowa. In the last 20 years, our state budget has grown by nearly $3 billion, but funding for the University of Iowa has actually declined. In fiscal year 2018, the UI received $7 million less than in 1998, despite enrolling nearly 5,000 additional students.

For many, these numbers conjure images of undergraduate tuition hikes, costly living expenses, and rising student loans. But the impact spreads beyond the effects of budget reductions on those seeking bachelor’s degrees in the state, there’s another, less well understood cost — the loss of innovation and discovery at the heart of graduate education.

RELATED: Editorial: Iowa must reinvest in higher education

Innovation developed through graduate education helps define the university as the ultimate public “good.” For example, graduate research is on the forefront of health care, road safety, clean water, and K-12 education — protecting and improving lives of Iowans. Not everyone knows the details of nanoparticles targeting cancer, but we all benefit from improvements in cancer treatment. We may not be aware of the technology used to deliver online counseling, but Iowa graduate research is finding ways to use these technologies to prevent suicide and improve access to mental-health services. Graduate research helps Iowans navigate our collective future.

More than 5,000 graduate students play a critical role in the university. Graduate students serve as an integral part of the undergraduate instructional mission as well as playing a key role in not only their own research and scholarship but also of our faculty and staff. Following their time at the UI, these graduates move on to careers that span every county in Iowa, as well as across the nation and the world.

RELATED: Guest Opinion: UI must press forward despite disinvestment in higher education

Many of today’s most in-demand careers require the advanced skills and experiences provided by a graduate degree. From nurses to educa tors to engineers, Iowa’s professionals need to be highly educated, flexible learners, trained to provide the cutting-edge care to Iowans.

Without the intellectual capacity and training graduate students bring to our state, I fear that we will be relegated to a lesser stature among our regional and national peers, many of whom are once again investing in their educational systems. The penalty incurred by disinvesting in education will be a situation from which it will be difficult to recover. Disinvestment in education, at all levels, is a disinvestment in the future of our society — and the future of Iowans.

  – John C. Keller

Interim Vice President for Research and Economic Development

Associate Provost for Graduate and Professional Education

Dean, the Graduate College 



As the UI seeks funding from the state Legislature for its fiscal 2019 appropriations request and faces the possibility of more midyear budget cuts, the DI will publish informational pieces and pieces from UI community leaders highlighting the value of higher education and calling for advocacy. Continue checking as Iowa’s universities face this critical issue.

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