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UNI Announces More Cuts, Museum To Close, Athletics To Trim Costs

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CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - 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.

UNI Athletics

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.

"I'll handle it in year one by eliminating a few positions and changing the way we do business," said Dannen. "After that, it's on us to really generate revenue."

Dannen said there are too many empty seats, especially as general fund revenue accounts for less and less of the athletic department's budget. He said the athletic program enjoyed a major bump in donations and support in March 2010 when the men's basketball team made the NCAA Sweet Sixteen.

UNI Museum

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 today 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.

UNI's College of Education Future

Dwight Watson, Dean of UNI's College of Education, said Thursday the university has about 3,500 students in education. If the Price Lab School is closed, finding a proper classroom environment for their training becomes critical.

"We have to find a replacement piece for that that is equally robust and equally as compelling as any to come to UNI to be teachers," said Watson. "We have to focus on proximity. It's 20 hours of course work (for the students) but they're also taking it during other courses. At Price Lab School, it was easier because they had to walk from one building to the next."

On Wednesday night, Allen faced hundreds of upset parents at Price Lab School in the hours after he told faculty members about his recommendation to close the school this summer.

"It was the right thing to do," said Allen about the previous night, which included plenty of sharp words and outbursts from parents. "I anticipated that type of meeting. They are passionate about that school. Their kids are affected.

"It probably one of my longest evenings."

Allen said the most lab schools were closed in the 1970s or 1980s because of budget constraints across the country.

"It's not going to be as convenient but my position is we can do this better than now with partnerships with school systems in the region," said Allen.

As for UNI's reputation as a destination point for future students, some education majors said on Thursday that they're unsure if this will dent UNI's profile.

"You're closing down an opportunity for education majors to go out there and get experience," said Andrew Kruse, senior from Newton. "If they close that down, we're going to have to find other schools to go to. My brother came here and he was an education major and just kept telling me how great of an education program UNI had."

Watch's Extended Interview With University of Northern Iowa's President Ben Allen Here

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