In its final scheduled meeting of the year, the University of Alaska Board of Regents took action on Strategic Pathways recommendations, approved a five percent tuition increase and the FY18 budget request, discussed a long-term financial approach to funding the university, and elected board officers for the coming year.
The board reviewed recommendations for organizational changes in management and business education, teacher education, and intercollegiate athletics, and passed motions that:
- Approved moving from three schools of management to two by eliminating the school of management at UAS. UAS’ current bachelor’s degree in business and master’s degree in public administration will be moved back under the College of Arts and Sciences, subject to approval of the accrediting agency, Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities; and
- Approved the president’s decision not to pursue elimination of cross-country or alpine skiing or any other sports at this time, and supported the president’s plan to engage the community in increasing private funding support for athletics.
The board also endorsed the president’s plan to consolidate the administration of UA’s three teacher education colleges but set aside for further discussion the future location of the administrative base for teacher education. Consolidation of the college’s administration would be a reduction in administration, but degree programs, faculty and students would remain across the three campuses. The administrative change also is dependent on approval from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
The board applauded the efforts of university administration to reduce expenditures in all areas, including intercollegiate athletics.
Budget and tuition
The board agreed to a five percent tuition increase for Academic Year 2018 and supported the administration’s 10-year financial plan to fund the university through 2025. The plan is based on a gradual decrease in state funding and relies on an aggressive increase in university enrollment as well as an incremental increase in tuition to meet the western states’ average for tuition and fees. The plan is designed to meet the projected education needs of the state’s future workforce, which predicts that by 2025, 65 percent of jobs in Alaska will require some post-secondary education.
Using the 10-year financial plan as a guide, regents also approved an FY18 operating budget request of $341.1 million, including strategic investments focused on meeting the aggressive recruitment and retention goals including improved student services, growing research capacity, greater K-12 partnerships, workforce development, and economic development. Regents approved a capital budget request of $50 million for deferred maintenance in addition to further investments into facility maintenance incorporated into the annual operating budget. Johnsen said he would continue to work with campuses to prepare contingency budget scenarios if the university did not receive $341 million from the state.
Regarding the long-term budget plan, Johnsen said: “The status quo simply is not sustainable. We must look hard at ourselves, and make tough choices about how to operate more cost effectively. At the same time, we must ensure academic quality, access and affordability, long term sustainability, while minimizing any negative community impacts. We are hard at work now toward our goal—a high quality, cost effective, affordable higher education system for Alaska.”
A number of special presentations and discussion supplemented the business meeting.
- UAF provided a lunchtime presentation featuring a number of initiatives supporting rural Alaska. The Community Campus Certified Nurses Assistant (CNA) program has successfully trained more than 2,000 CNAs through 10 rural campus sites across Northern and Western Alaska. The program focuses on meeting the high demand for health care practitioners in rural communities. The presentation also focused on research to reduce suicide and alcohol risks among Alaska Native youth. The research has successfully partnered with native communities to teach traditional native skills, values and cultural teachings that successfully increased youth belief in their abilities, families and communities showing a measurable increase in protection against alcohol and suicide risk among native youth. Alaska Native professors presented on advancements in language and culture revitalization in Southwestern Alaska and the increasing success of Alaska Native graduates.
- Vice President for Academic Affairs and Research Dan White gave an overview on the Value of Higher Education in Alaska featuring an evaluation of the affordability of the University of Alaska, graduate workforce placement rates and earning potentials, and student satisfaction survey results.
- Dr. White also presented an update on the many productive partnerships active throughout the system including academic, industry, community, and school partners that expand program offerings, improve workforce development efforts, provide hands-on learning needs and adaption of programs to meet community needs, and strengthen Alaska’s education system from pre-K to post-graduate.
The board elected officers for the next two years and recognized outgoing Regent Kenneth J. Fischer. The new officers elected are:
- Chair – Gloria O’Neill
- Vice Chair – John Davies
- Secretary – Lisa Parker
- Treasurer – Deena Paramo
In closing, regents thanked Regent Ken Fisher for his steadfast commitment to students and in particular the avoidance of student debt during his eight year service to the university. The Board also thanked outgoing Chair Jo Heckman for her two years of outstanding service as board chair. The board also thanked President Johnsen for his vision and leadership during difficult times and each other for the willingness to have frank and open conversations about the challenges the university faces.