Overview of Statewide and the impacts of budget reductions
By Monique Musick
As the University of Alaska examines how best to position itself to meet the future needs of Alaska and its students, steps have been taken to reduce Statewide administrative costs. A series of initiatives including Statewide Transformation and Strategic Pathways have, and will continue to shape and restructure the university as a whole.
The intent of this overview is to provide a look at where reductions have been made, where reorganizations have occurred and to outline the purpose of the centralized functions remaining at Statewide.
- General fund allocation to SW has been reduced from $28.4 million to $18.4 million, a 35 percent reduction since FY15
- SW positions have been reduced from 280 to 194 (86 positions), a 31 percent reduction over the past five years (includes 33 positions transferred to UAF)
- SW has taken a higher rate of general fund budget reductions than the three universities in order to reduce the impact of GF reductions on the universities (Percent change FY15-FY16: SW -17.3, UAS -6.9, UAF -3.6, UAA -4.8)
The Role of Statewide
The University of Alaska is, in a legal sense, a single entity. Statewide serves as the point of contact for all state agencies, federal entities like the Internal Revenue Service, external auditing agencies and others. The departments at Statewide, including internal audit, labor relations and general counsel, provide unduplicated services on behalf of the entire university system. The centralization of these services achieves efficiencies, streamlines and ensures coordinated relationships with external entities and provides the UA systemwide perspective.
From FY15 to FY17, Statewide’s general fund operating appropriation has decreased from $28.4 million to $18.4 million – a reduction of 35 percent. These cost reductions can be categorized in three general ways: reduced positions, reduced expenses and reorganizations.
Staff positions have been reduced by 31 percent, from 280 to 194, over the past five years. Reductions have affected nearly every service area within Statewide with some offices reduced by more than two thirds and others eliminated or combined into other service areas.
It should be noted that 33 positions were transferred to UAF including Mining and Petroleum Training Services, the K-12 Outreach program, and the Office of Information Technology’s Help Desk.
Significant savings have been instituted through reduced department budgets, renegotiated contracts for large annual savings, and a 50 percent reduction in travel expenses over the last five years. Like staff everywhere, fewer people are doing more work with reduced resources.
The combination of duties is happening at the highest levels, with the responsibilities of seven executive positions combined into three positions. The associate vice president of facilities and land management, and chief strategy and budget officer have been combined with the vice president of University Relations. The chief financial officer and controller positions have been combined, eliminating the vice president of finance. The federal and state relations roles have been combined into a single government relations position.
Functions within Statewide
A number of activities housed within Statewide are either self-funded or are part of a shared services budget. Notably, the University of Alaska Foundation generates its own revenue through service fees. The Foundation supports fundraising and development efforts at all three universities and their extended sites. While it is distinct from UA legally, many of the Foundation employees also provide services for the university directly, especially within the investment side of university business. The UA College Savings Plan receives all funding for staff, travel and marketing through program service fees and support from T. Rowe Price. The staff also manages the UA Scholars Program, an important scholarship program for retaining Alaska’s top students. The Labor Relations and Risk Services offices are partially funded by the universities in a shared service funding model. The Land Management department is a significant revenue generator for the entire system and is funded through a portion of the Land Grant Endowment earnings.
On the financial side, Statewide staff prepare the financial statements, benefit rates and indirect cost rates for the UA System, perform internal audits and interface with external auditors on behalf of all campuses. They maintain financial policies and systems, and are held accountable for the fiduciary concerns of the university system.
The Human Resources department at Statewide provides unique services on behalf of all campuses including benefit management, compensation systems, market analysis, payroll taxes, labor relations, and policy creation and review. Statewide HR is collaborating with the campuses on employee and leadership development, and developing a transition plan for fully housing operational services such as recruitment, onboarding and data entry on the campuses.
Statewide employees work to directly support the President, Board of Regents and the entire University of Alaska system including communications and public relations support for the president and the university system. Others represent the system in Juneau and Washington D.C. A small budget staff works with the campuses to create a single systemwide budget, oversees the allocation of revenues, and acts as the liaison between the State and the university. The Institutional Research office provides data analysis and projections to support leadership initiatives, and respond to state and federal reporting requests on behalf of the university system. The General Counsel office provides legal review and representation on behalf of the entire university. Labor Relations negotiates contracts covering the entire system.
The administration of Information Technology (IT) systems, enterprise applications, user services, video conferencing and other network, data management and IT support resides in the Statewide portion of the Office of Information Technology (OIT). This area has been largely reorganized and reduced during recent transitions with some positions moving to campuses and significant reductions across most IT departments.
Not all work is compliance and policy driven. On the academic, research, and student support sides, Statewide staff work directly with business and industry partners to create workforce development plans for Alaska’s key industries and help guide the development of industry responsive programs throughout Alaska. Most recently staff completed the Alaska Maritime Workforce Development Plan and are working with a broad spectrum of partners to create new training programs for Alaska’s marine, fisheries and seafood sectors.
As the official interface between the Board of Regents and the university’s faculty and students, the vice president for academic affairs and research is increasingly responsible for overseeing collaboration between the three universities and working with campus faculty on the standardization of policies, processes, and general education requirements such as working toward a common catalog and single online learning environment. Oversight of student policy and compliance with federal and state education regulations is part of the job of the Student and Enrollment Strategies office. They work with campuses on initiatives to increase enrollment, retention and graduation rates and provide systemwide oversight of Title IX compliance.
Lastly, the risk and emergency management functions at Statewide include insurance claims processing, risk management, maintenance of notification and alert systems, business continuity and disaster response planning, and compliance with FEMA, DHS and federal emergency management requirements. Health and safety responsibilities have been consolidated onto the campuses.
The Bottom Line
Reductions and eliminations at Statewide have been dramatic, with 31 percent fewer people working to provide the same level of service and support required by law and providing necessary services to students and employees across the system. This streamlining of services is desperately needed to respond to financial reductions yet meet the increasing education needs of the state.
As Statewide Transformation evolves into Strategic Pathways, and the entire university undertakes an intensive review and reorganization, Statewide will continue to provide critical policy direction and shared services, lead collaboration efforts and aid in increasing efficiency across the university system.