University of Iowa President speaks on state of the university to area organizations

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld says they need to make changes if the University is going to continue to be successful for students and in research.

President Bruce Harreld speaks to area organizations at the Hilton Garden Inn in Iowa City on October 10, 2019. Harreld addressed the state of the university, both in what's working and what needs to change. (Aaron Scheinblum/KCRG)

In a full meeting room at the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Iowa City, Harreld spoke to the state of the university to members of area Rotary Clubs and other organizations.

Harreld said some of the positives have been keeping enrollment consistent at about 5,000 incoming freshmen per year over the last three years, as well as bringing in bright students. Harreld said the average GPA of the incoming freshman this year was above a 3.7.

Harreld also spoke to their desire not necessarily to grow, but to use their resources wisely. He said by creating solid public-private partnerships to increase funding, as well as increasing the number of faculty, it could lead to a positive future moving forward.

"We're very proud of a 15/1 student/faculty ratio," Harreld said. "And it keeps us in the echelon of the [Association of American Universities] and other important groups."

Harreld said some of the places the university can improve would include a need for more state funding, citing how other public universities of similar size receive millions more from their state governments. But he also spoke about the need to improve the brand of the University of Iowa.

U.S. News and World Report rank Iowa the 34th best public university in the country, up to four spots from last year's poll. Herrald said while that is a good sign, he feels the university can do even better.

"We're very proud of the fact that we've moved up four rankings in the last year," Harreld said. "On the other hand, four rankings basically moved us from the bottom to the bottom. And that's an issue- it's a serious issue for us."

Harreld said one of the big knocks on the university when it comes to the rankings directly relates to the university's retention rate. Harreld cited how 13-percent of students drop out after four years on campus.

President Harreld admits another concern at the University of Iowa is its overall graduation rate, citing how athletes have a higher graduation rate on campus than the rest of the student body.

Harreld said the four-year graduation rate for students at the university is at 53-percent. He says that is much lower than other comparable schools, and in his words, they need to do better than that.

Harreld said while rankings are not everything, they can play a significant role when students go to apply to college.

"We don't want to chase the rankings, but they actually are a pretty good set of metrics," Harreld said. "And they keep us sharply focused on things that matter. And these are used as families, certainly my family used them when they started thinking about where our children, now adults, went to school. So they do matter."

President Harreld said overall, it is important that they deliver quality education, and believe they are on the right path. He said when these students graduate, their resumes are going to say "University of Iowa" at the top of the page- and it is important that employers see the value in that for a long time.

"I think our students demand and deserve something exceptional," Harreld said. "And I think we have the opportunity to deliver it."

"We owe them the increased value of that through time," Harreld said. "Again, not proud of it, but I would say what we've been doing is not increasing their value. So we're really focused on changing these trends."