CLINTON — Ashford students, faculty and staff met with Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds Tuesday to talk about the university and state education initiatives.
“We’ve invested about $40 million and brought 400 jobs that probably wouldn’t be here otherwise,” Ashford University Vice President and Campus Director John Ballheim told the state leaders during a tour of the campus.
In the past years, the university has upgraded its science facilities and other technology as well as added a locker room and concession area to its athletic facilities on 14th Street, among other investments.
Beyond the financial investments, Ashford President Richard Pattenaude talked about the steps the company has taken to increase student retention and move away from its alleged focus on student recruitment. Those steps include steps such as adding more full-time faculty and reducing the amount of admission representatives. Some of those steps were in response to the university’s initial accreditation denial from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, which last month reversed its decision and approved a five-year accreditation for Ashford.
“Student success is really good business for us,” Pattenaude said.
Ashford, along with other for-profit colleges, last year came under fire from Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, for its exponential growth and recruitment practices. Branstad Tuesday called the criticism “unfortunate.”
“I think Ashford has done some great things for Clinton. It’s created jobs, it’s purchased buildings in the community, built athletic facilities and it focuses on education. We also appreciate when a company makes a $40 million dollar investment in Iowa. We want to encourage and support their success,” Branstad said.
After the tour of the campus, Branstad and Reynolds spoke with faculty, staff and members of the Student Government Association about the initiatives Iowa is implementing, such as the STEM Advisory Council that promotes science, technology, engineering and math programs.