Low student enrollment limits funds for Recreation Services


Screenshot from YouTube

Women & Weights is a female-focused fitness class offered by Recreation Services Monday and Wednesday nights.

Katelyn Squiers

A recent trend in decreased student enrollment at Iowa State has limited the number of opportunities available through Recreation Services. 

The university’s enrollment has decreased by more than 5,000 students since 2016. The 2016 fall enrollment peaked at more than 36,000 students, according to Michael Giles, director of recreation services. In the fall of 2021, enrollment totaled 30,708, according to the Iowa State Office of the Registrar website

“It’s not unusual for enrollment to have peaks and valleys,” Giles said. “But when you reduce over 5,000 students, it has an impact on our ability to operationally provide.” 

The effects of decreased enrollment are not limited to Recreation Services, but the ramifications are more “direct,” because the department is “primarily funded by student fees,” Giles said. 

In recent years, Recreation Services has reduced many of their hours of operation. All facilities currently close at 10 p.m. instead of midnight on weeknights, and the Lied Recreation Athletic Center is unavailable during summer and winter breaks. 

“We’re having to learn to do what we can with the resources available,” said Jason Vlastaras, associate director for programs. “Across the board, everybody has kind of had to do their part in different ways to try to save money.”

The department has also hired fewer employees, which has impacted the services they are able to provide. The Adventure Program within Recreation Services has cut back from three employees to one employee due to budget cuts.

The Adventure Program’s equipment rental is open 20 hours a week instead of 40, and they are not offering trips until further notice. 

“I think there’s just been overall frustration from us all that we’re not able to [provide service] in a way that we’ve always been doing it,” Giles said. 

There has also been a decrease in the number of available intramural sports and group fitness classes. Though currently unable, the department hopes to be able to offer more of its usual opportunities in the future.

“Our primary focus and primary responsibilities is still to serve students to work with them for their success on both the academic side of things and in their own personal lives,” Giles said. 

Some of the services and programs Rec Services is offering this semester include small group training classes, intramural badminton and an outdoor cooking workshop. For more information, visit the Recreation Services website.