Editorial: Keep funding for state facilities

Editorial Board

Iowa State University and the city of Ames have changed, at least visually, in the past decade.

From the addition and renovation of new residence halls, dining facilities, greenhouses, classrooms, administrative offices and laboratories to a renovated Campustown and expanded West Ames – the highly transient city and university community have grown and developed at a rapid pace. However, new construction and renovation projects on campus may have to be placed on hold as Governor Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Legislature try and find a way to bridge a budget gap of about $35 million.

Gov. Reynolds’ proposal would cut state funding for the University of Iowa’s Main Library, the University of Northern Iowa’s Industrial Technology Center and Iowa State’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. The Iowa State Daily Editorial Board strongly opposes these cuts, along with other proposed cuts, to higher education.

Iowa State had 26,160 students in the fall of 2007. Last semester, the student population reached its second highest level at 36,321. Over 10,000 more students need a place to sleep, study, eat, work out, etc. Whether this pace of growth is good or sustainable is another question.

But a surge in student population isn’t the only factor in these building projects. Iowa’s three state universities help drive our state’s economy and keep us progressing into the future. It is imperative that our state keeps investing in our universities.

A report released last fall indicates that Iowa is suffering from brain drain where the state produces more educated employees than our economy can use. That is to say, Iowa produces highly skilled workers that then leave the state and contribute to other economies and communities.

Certainly, it is in our state’s best interest to increase the retention of these highly skilled employees. However, reversing this brain drain phenomenon on a state level will take progressive investments in our state universities. Affordable tuition and state-of-the-art facilities create a lethal combination when it comes to education and economic development.

Iowa State and Ames have developed a lot over the past 10 years. Some of that growth has been preemptive while some has been reactive. Going forward, Iowa State, Ames and the state should work together to continually invest in infrastructure improvements that positively contribute to the community.