BY HOLLY FISHER
For the UAS Whalesong
In light of Alaska’s budget deficit, the University of Alaska system has opted to adopt the Strategic Pathways plan to address current and upcoming budget cuts. The project caused a concerned reaction upon its initial introduction, but the University has made a concerted effort to maintain open communication and community involvement. UA President Jim Johnson and all those working on the Pathways project have been very open to commentary from faculty, students, and surrounding communities. At the recent Board of Regents meeting here in Juneau, the presentations attempted to take into account the considerations of interested parties. A casual meet-and-greet style open event Thursday, Sept. 15 was held to allow people to have a chance to talk to the Board members, President Johnson, and even Juneau Mayor Ken Koelsch. By providing these opportunities and making information readily available, they are working to acclimate the UA campuses to the large changes that are being considered for the coming years.
Strategic Pathways was adopted in order to better manage the available resources and to cope with the increasing budget cuts by the legislature. At this point, the separate pieces of this plan are still being discussed. It is possible that there will be a consolidation of faculty and managerial staff, centralization of services such as the IT department, and that the majority of degree programs will each be assigned to lead campuses instead of being available at multiple campuses. A current example is the UAA Nursing program which is a ‘sole provider’ model – it is available to students in locations across the UA system but is managed at the UAA campus. Thus, someone may live in Juneau but can still be considered an Anchorage student and their degree can still be conferred from UAA. There are more models under consideration but none have been implemented as of yet.
There has been discussion of exclusively consolidating certain degree programs onto one campus, and only having them available through online resources at other locations. Examples would be Marine Biology and Fisheries being moved to UAS, Natural sciences to UAF, and Social Sciences to UAA. If degrees are moved away from any of the campuses, previous students in that program may be grandfathered in at their original location. GERs, Humanities, and certifications will remain available across the system. Some low-enrollment classes, however, may be in danger of being cut. By avoiding unnecessary program repetition, the University hopes that the budget will be able to accommodate state-level budget cuts without cutting programs.
Starting last academic year, the UA system began a three year/three phase review of how to best institute these massive changes. These past few weeks the Board of Regents has met three times, once on each campus, to discuss the options and decide on the direction the next phase might take.
September 15 and 16 saw the Board of Regents here at UAS. The changes that were decided on began with their choosing not to push for a single University of Alaska accreditation, instead maintaining the separate accreditations and identities across all three universities.
Following that decision, President Johnson put forward a plan to align the business programs across the UA system to reduce redundancy. What was decided was that UAF and UAA will maintain their full business schools with deans. UAS will provide the online option for outlying areas and continue to offer business programs under the School of Arts and Sciences.
The Board approved consolidating teacher education into one UA school with a single dean. They did not settle the question of who would be the lead campus or who would serve as the dean, but it is expected to be revisited in November of this year. A strong emphasis has been placed on the University of Alaska’s need to expand teacher education in the coming years.
For those of us wondering where our degree programs will go, or if they will still exist, information is available at http://www.alaska.edu/pathways with recent developments, FAQs, and timelines.