The University of Alaska Board of Regents unanimously approved a proposal to increase the UA Scholars Award by $1,000, wrapping up a two-day meeting in the Capital City.
The UA Scholars Award, funded solely by the university through its land endowment, has not increased since it was created in 1999. The regents’ action Friday increases the total award to $12,000, up from $11,000.
One other change to the Scholars program, also approved unanimously, will increase the minimum required credit load per academic year from 24 credits to 30 credits, beginning in the second year of the award. Research shows full-time students who take 30 credits a year are more successful than students who take a lighter load. The changes take effect with awards decided in spring 2015.
In other action, the board voted against a tuition increase proposed by the administration, after several hours of considerable debate. The four percent increase, an additional $6-$8 per credit charge for undergraduate courses, would have brought in an additional $4 million systemwide in FY16.
The UA System currently faces an approximately $26 million budget gap, following a cut from the state Legislature in addition to increased fixed costs. UA tuition plus fees are the second lowest in the nation among public baccalaureate institutions, according to the College Board. Only Wyoming’s public institution charges less. Among the 15 western states, UA has the third lowest tuition rates when fees are not included.
Reasons for voting against the proposal were mixed. Several board members expressed concern with how the UA System prioritizes programs and develops its annual budget request. The vote was 4-7. Regents Tim Brady, Fuller Cowell, Mike Powers and Pat Jacobson voted in favor of the increase, citing the low regional and national figures and recent budget cuts. Regents Kirk Wickersham, Dale Anderson, Jo Heckman, Mary Hughes, Courtney Enright, Gloria O’Neill and Ken Fisher voted against the increase.
With the vote, the current tuition rates will remain in effect for the next academic year.
Regents also approved a new certificate in medical assisting at the University of Alaska Southeast. Numerous health-care providers from the region spoke in favor of the certificate, citing significant demand.
“The need for CMAs (certified medical assistants) is great. If I could hire 12 today, I would hire 12 today. My problem is I can’t find 12 who are certified,” said Sara Lang, nursing director for the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Corp., or SEARHC.
Medical assistants help deliver a broader range of health care services, such as delivering injections, taking medical histories and assisting with procedures. Without certification, the assistant’s services are more restricted, several health-care providers said.
In other matters, board members attended a reception and toured the new freshman housing complex at the Auke Lake campus. Students led regents and guests on a tour and spoke enthusiastically about the complex, which has a spectacular view of Mendenhall Glacier, the lake and surrounding mountains. “Frankly, I don’t want to go home,” joked Sammie Freeman, a freshman nursing student from Anchorage.