Board of Regents commits to further study of structural option, approves FY21 Budget
The University of Alaska Board of Regents voted today on a process for a more in depth review of an option to merge the University of Alaska Southeast with the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The motion, offered by Juneau Regent Dale Anderson, includes student, staff and faculty governance in the process and sets an October deadline for finalizing a report to the board.
The board also approved the university’s FY21 total budget of $832.3 million, including $277 million in Unrestricted General Funds (UGF) from the state, a decrease of $25 million from FY20. Regents agreed to spend $24.8 million in one-time funds to close a budget gap brought on by the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The board provided guidance to the administration on FY22 budget planning, and agreed to distribute funds from the Natural Resources Fund for specific programs including the UA Scholars program and other scholarships. The board also approved a plan to restructure and refinance debt.
“You asked for options for how to address our budget challenges. In response, I have brought them to you, without recommendation.” said President Jim Johnsen. “It breaks my heart to bring these options to the Board and I know it is hard for you. You heard the testimony over the last week. We don’t just sell widgets. We discover new knowledge. We change, we transform people’s lives. We reach out from our classrooms and labs to help the people in all corners of Alaska. The harsh cuts to our budget by the state mean that our ability to play that critical role is hurt.”
The Anderson motion ensured that shared governance and community representatives would work together to develop a "Conceptual Plan" that will assess the pros and cons of a UAS merger. The plan elements would include:
- cost savings from a merger;
- regional program demands;
- provisions for student program completion (teach out or transfer);
- ensuring compliance with accreditation standards;
- opportunities for expanding into areas such as fisheries and ocean science, Alaska Native programs, environmental research, public administration, mine training, and teacher education; and
- an assessment of opportunities for partnerships with regional communities and tribal organizations.
“Let’s have a roundtable conversation, share ideas, gather thoughts and data, look for efficiencies and opportunities with a positive outlook,” Anderson said. “Using stakeholders from the university, the regional communities that are affected, tribal organizations and Alaskans dedicated to the betterment of our state and university. I ask that we simply take a look at this proposed merger, not necessarily move forward with it. I’m asking for an opportunity to gather data, examine ideas and opportunities, explore potential efficiencies and study the pros and cons before we make a decision to merge or not and not just throw it out the window without the data.”
The conceptual plan is due no later than October 15, 2020. Read the full motion.
The Board of Regents also announced that it will meet again on June 10 and June 16 to discuss options for interim leadership if President Johnsen is offered and accepts the presidency of the University of Wisconsin System.
Tomorrow is the second day of the full board meeting. Regents will address recommended academic program deletions; resolutions of appreciation for outgoing leaders; a report on Digital Transformation; and a report on how the university’s policies are impacted by new federal rules on responding to complaints of sexual misconduct.