University of Alaska Copes with Another Year of Cuts

kasey-chen-1BY KASEY CHEN
Staff Writer, UAS Whalesong

At their November 10 meeting, The University of Alaska Board of Regents (BOR) approved a tuition hike of 5 percent and solidified their budget request for the 2018 fiscal year. Their plan accounts for a decrease in state funding over the next 10 years and relies on a surge of enrollment based on projections saying 65 percent of jobs in Alaska will require some postsecondary education by 2025, a 28 percent increase from today’s 37 percent. They are currently in the second phase of a 3-phase plan for restructuring entitled “Strategic Pathways,” which seeks to review and consolidate programs within the university system.

Phase one of the plan, which commenced over the summer, involved the assessment of the Schools of Engineering, Management, and Teacher Education, as well as the administrative areas of Procurement, Information Technology, Research Administration, and Intercollegiate Athletics. Review teams assembled from faculty, students, staff, and community members were in charge of determining how to proceed with these programs.

Their evaluation of the School of Engineering resulted in a plan to keep the class list roughly the same, but reduce discrepancies between campuses by increasing collaboration and implementing course sharing wherein a single faculty member teaches students on both the UAF and UAA campuses simultaneously.

At UAS, the School of Management is experiencing a significant change for 2017. The BOR is opting to eliminate the “School,” and include its programs under the umbrella of the School of Arts and Sciences instead. They plan to consolidate Teacher Education into a single administration with some more general classes offered at all three campuses, but with specialized courses limited to a “lead” campus. UAA currently serves as the lead campus for nursing education, and the board is planning to use this program as a structural guideline. The next phase took place over the course of this semester, and the final phase is set to commence Spring 2017.

Regents approved an operating budget request for $341.1 million, planning to use the funds to invest mainly in meeting their recruitment and retention goals. From the capital budget, Regents requested $50 million for deferred maintenance. President Jim Johnsen stated that he plans to continue work with campuses on contingency budget scenarios, should the university not receive the full amount requested.

Regarding athletics, the university requested a waiver from the NCAA last month to allow them to dip below the NCAA’s 10-team requirement at the Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses. The NCAA responded by implying that a waiver request would only make it to the table if the university reduced below the 10-team minimum first. With this in mind, Johnson advised that the school not reduce teams at this time and instead try to rely more heavily on the support of student athletes, community, and alumni, inviting those who are passionately in support of athletics to make a financial contribution.

For 2017, the university was allotted $335 million that was $35 million more than budget planners had expected. The extra funds were moved towards preventing further tuition increases for that year, deferred maintenance on all three campuses, and the annual debt service and operating costs of the unfinished UAF Engineering Building.

Even with the unexpected extra state funding, the total $909.8 million budget is $15 million less than the year before creating a need for job cuts and the reduction of programs within the UA system. University of Alaska Anchorage will face a $25.2 million budget reduction, losing 209 positions and suspending 9 programs. Feeling the greatest effect, University of Alaska Fairbanks will suffer the loss of approximately 389 positions, and $38.3 million in funds. Two UAF programs were suspended, and the Masters of Electrical Engineering, Bachelors of Arts Russian Studies, and Theater were eliminated entirely.

University of Alaska Southeast will see a reduction of $6.3 million from the budget, and the loss of 23 positions. The cuts for all campuses will be carried out via layoffs, attrition, and non-renewal of term contract.

In his address on Strategic Pathways at UAF on September 1, Johnson stated, “The last 40 years, we’ve been literally swimming in oil money with a few bumps here and there, and that era is passing. We have to do all we can for our university and for our state.

Sources:

“Forums Webstream | Strategic Pathways.” Forums Webstream | Strategic Pathways. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2016. <https://www.alaska.edu/pathways/forums/&gt;.

KTUU, Blake Essig /. “University of Alaska OKs Reduced Spending Plan, Cutting Jobs and Programs.” University of Alaska OKs Reduced Spending Plan, Cutting Jobs and Programs. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2016. <http://www.ktuu.com/content/news/Breaking-down-the-University-of-Alaska-budget-381801211.html&gt;.

Strategic Pathways (n.d.): n. pag. University of Alaska Southeast. Web.

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