Striking a relieved but somber tone, University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen presented the university’s FY18 budget to the UA Board of Regents at its June 22 special meeting.
On Wednesday, the legislative operating budget conference committee set the university’s operating budget at $317 million unrestricted general funds (UGF), an $8 million cut from the university’s FY17 operating budget.
“This is not a time for high-fives,” Johnsen said. “This is more a time for relief because the cut could have been even deeper, and now we must focus on the hard work ahead.”
Johnsen addressed the university’s $317 million budget scenario, which would leave an $11 million budget gap factoring in fixed cost increases. The university’s plan to address the gap will rely on continued reductions and reallocations while maintaining investment in strategic priorities including aggressive marketing, recruitment and retention programs to increase student enrollment, research, workforce/online program development, and process automation.
Even during lean budget times, Johnsen said, “We’ve got to keep investing in our high priorities, otherwise the downward spiral keeps going. We’ve got to take a deep breath, manage through these reductions, then focus on our investments and growth.”
Regents also approved a budget contingency option in the unlikely event that a state operating budget is not passed by July 1, authorizing Johnsen to receive an advance on the FY18 appropriation from the state Office of Management and Budget. The authorization is necessary in order to maintain constitutionally and legally mandated university functions if the budget
impasse were to continue into FY18.
Regents expressed gratitude to the administration for its leadership and noted the importance of community support during the difficult budget process.
“I’d like to thank President Johnsen and his team for an incredible job through this session. (Johnsen’s) leadership and efforts to build the university by engaging staff, faculty, students and the community are invaluable,” said Board Chair Gloria O’Neill.
“I’m pleased with the (budget) progress being made and I’m hopeful this number is where it lands. A lot of work has gone into this. There’s a lot of community support for our university, and we need to make sure everyone realizes how important the university is to our communities and our state,” said Regent Sheri Buretta.
Regents will convene again on June 27 to approve the university’s FY18 operating budget once it is passed by the Legislature. The university’s capital budget is still uncertain pending legislative action, and regents will convene to address that item at a later date.
All Board of Regents meeting agendas and documents are available online at