Nov. 9, 2017: UA Board of Regents meeting and public gathering

November 9, 2017

The University of Alaska Board of Regents will be meeting on the UAA Campus this Thursday and Friday, Nov. 9-10, including a public gathering in Gorsuch Commons, Room 106 on Thursday, Nov. 9, from 5–6 p.m.

The regents will take up a range of topics, including two major financial discussions: the FY19 university budget and proposed tuition changes for academic years (AY) 2019 and 2020.

The proposed FY19 budget, presented by UA President Jim Johnsen, focuses on five strategic goals: economic development, workforce training, competitive research, educational attainment and cost effectiveness. The plan includes numerous strategies and identifies the resources needed to pursue them. “By investing in these strategies,” Johnsen said, “we prepare Alaskans to create Alaska’s future and, along the way, solve our state’s major challenges, like our economy, our high healthcare costs and crime rates and our changing environment.”

The proposed budget includes an appropriation of $341 million from the state’s unrestricted general fund (UGF) and authority to raise an additional $577 million in other funds such as tuition, fees, federal grants and contracts and state pass-through funds.

Over the past four years, the university’s state UGF appropriation has been cut $61 million, or 16 percent, despite fixed cost increases and deferred maintenance needs. The cumulative reduction over that period is $145 million. Reductions have resulted in significant impacts—UA has 1,183 fewer employees than four years ago and 50 fewer degree and certificate programs.

Recognizing the difficult fiscal climate as well as the university’s unique position as a critical economic driver and the largest contributor to workforce development, Johnsen told regents at a special budget meeting in late October that the university would seek approval of the $341 million (a $24 million increment from last year’s state appropriation). Johnsen said approximately $14 million would be invested in key strategic priorities including contributing to the state’s economic development, growing UA’s world class research, educating more teachers and healthcare providers, and increasing enrollment and degree attainment rates.

“We must develop and diversify our economy,” Johnsen said. “Successful states across the nation and countries around the world know that their greatest competitive advantage is their people. I recognize the difficult situation our state is in, and that’s why we must invest in education now.”

If the board concurs, the university also would request a $50 million state capital appropriation to fund deferred maintenance/renewal and repurposing of the university’s facilities. UA owns more than 400 facilities with an average age of 33 years, and currently has a maintenance backlog in excess of $1 billion.

To continue providing a top-quality education to UA students, regents will consider an increase to tuition rates by 5 percent per year in AY2019 and AY2020. The board has said it wants all lower division tuition to be the same across the UA system. For that reason, tuition at Kodiak College and Prince William Sound College will increase by 10 percent in AY2019 and 9.5 percent in AY2020 in order to reach parity with UA’s other community campuses across the state. At UAA and UAS, 80 percent of tuition revenue is retained by the college generating the revenue, and 20 percent goes to cover campus-wide needs, such as academic tuition waivers and system computing services. At UAF the percentage split is 60/40. Community and rural campuses across the UA system retain 100 percent of revenue generated by tuition.

There also will be a 25 percent tuition discount for those seeking occupational certificates and endorsements. “The tuition discount for occupational endorsements and certificates is a big move for us,” Johnsen said. “We hope to attract students who want to step up their skills quickly in order to get a job or a promotion.”

Throughout October, Johnsen met with students at all three universities to discuss the tuition proposals. More than 240 students either attended one of the listening sessions or provided feedback through an online form, and 2,564 people viewed the forums online via the university’s Facebook page. Johnsen listened to their testimony and shared information, including the fact that, according to a recent report by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, Alaska ranks in the top three most affordable states for higher education.

The regents also will hear governance, committee and government relations reports, plus updates on Strategic Pathways Phase 3 and Title IX compliance progress. The board also will consider approving FY18 presidential performance compensation criteria and an extension to the president’s employment contract.

All Board of Regents agendas are available online at alaska.edu/bor/agendas. The board meeting also is streamed via wireless devices or a computer during open session at alaska.edu/bor/live.

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