Iowa State University will fund student retention, online learning and child care projects

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Iowa State University is investing more than $10 million in a series of projects to launch the university’s vision of itself over the next decade – a vision that includes better retention of underrepresented students, renovated child care centers and a unified structure for online programs.

Wendy Wintersteen, Iowa State President earlier this month featured the university’s strategic plan covering the years up to 2031 on the Iowa board.

The university also has announced funding for nine “start-up projects” ahead of the first planning process due to begin this fall.

The $10.5 million for the projects – funded mostly by donations from private donors – does not set a timeline for the work, but university spokeswoman Angie Hunt said the projects will be put implemented over the next three years.

Iowa State students head to class on the first day of the fall semester at the university's central campus Aug. 23, 2021 in Ames.

The largest portion, $3.5 million, is allocated to “support faculty hires in key areas that align with Iowa State’s research strengths and emerging curricula,” according to one. Press release.

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Hunt said these strengths include the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Another $1.5 million is allocated to the launch of “Degrees of the Future”, including in climate science, cyber security and health care management.

The university also wants to invest an additional $1.5 million in launching an initiative to increase retention and graduation rates among first-generation or Pell-eligible students, as well as students whose progress schools have been the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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More precisely, in the next five yearsIowa State wants to reduce year-over-year retention gaps by 40% for underrepresented students — with retention gaps last fall between underrepresented and non-underrepresented students being between 2.5% and 6.3%.

In the same time frame, the university would also like to see a 2% increase in the rate of underrepresented students graduating – with a gap of between 3.7% and 17.3% last fall in graduation rates between underrepresented students and other students.

Hunt said the university is already working this summer toward those goals, “expanding access to tutoring services, focusing academic advisors on at-risk students, developing initiatives to foster a sense of student belonging on campus and increasing participation in learning activities (study abroad, research opportunities, learning communities, internships, etc.) outside of the traditional classroom.”

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Online learning to be “under one umbrella”; improvements to two of the three daycares on campus

The nine start-up projects also include funding of $1 million each for more effective recruitment of freshmen and transfer students, as well as upgrades to lab equipment and infrastructure.

The university wants to spend $600,000 to “develop Iowa State Online, a university-wide brand and support structure that will bring online education programs together under one umbrella.”

Hunt said online programs are currently structured by colleges or college-to-college partnerships, but the university expects a more centralized and cohesive brand structure to better meet the needs of students, faculty, and faculty. employers, and “ensures a constant level of quality based on the best online practices”. and the development and delivery of blended courses. »

Last fall, 657 students were enrolled online, and the university wants to increase that number by 30% within five years while offering two to four new programs or sets of degrees that students can earn.

$600,000 from donors, plus an additional $442,000 in university funds, will be used to renovate two of the campus’ three child care centers – at the College of Veterinary Medicine and another located on North Stange Road at the university’s family resource center.

Renovation priorities include facility heating, ventilation and cooling systems; floor; counters; classification of playgrounds; and the windows of the veterinary medicine facility, according to Hunt.

The university’s third daycare center – the Child Development Laboratory School, located in the heart of campus on Osborn Drive – has been in operation for the longest time, since 1924, but the school’s current home, the Palmer Building, opened in 2000.

Hunt said the three facilities together serve about 330 children each year.

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Phillip Sitter covers education for the Ames Tribune, including Iowa State University and PreK-12 schools in Ames and elsewhere in Story County. Phillip can be contacted by email at psitter@gannett.com. He’s on Twitter @pslifeisabeauty.

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