UA Board of Regents previews FY23 budget, approves early childhood degree program, and discusses UA’s role in critical mineral research
Sept. 17, 2021
During its two-day meeting last week, the University of Alaska Board of Regents focused on the university’s progress toward budget stability in its review of the FY22 budget and preview of the FY23 areas of focus. Regents also discussed the merits of a differentiated tuition structure, approved a Bachelor of Arts degree program in Early Childhood Education at UAA and reviewed the university’s important role in developing Alaska’s critical minerals, including Rare Earth Elements.
Interim President Pat Pitney noted several signs that the university system is turning the corner in its work to stabilize the fiscal environment.
“We have re-sized, consolidated programs, reduced the physical footprint, leveraged funding support for research and economic development and focused on philanthropy,” Pitney said. “But we are still adapting with significant focus on student enrollment initiatives and those research and academic programs that will contribute to Alaska’s economy.”
The FY23 operating budget, which the board will approve at its November meeting, will focus on revised goals under consideration by the board and will build on the core foundation of a smaller, more efficient university system with programs that serve Alaska’s students, industries, and communities.
“The affordability and value of the higher education we bring to students across Alaska is very important. And we want to reach every student,” Pitney said.
The Regents also approved a $5 million capital budget allocation for FY22. On Sept. 8, the State Office of Management and Budget (OMB) informed UA that it would receive $5 million of the $35 million distributed for statewide deferred maintenance. UA accounts for more than one-third of the state facilities. Legislative deferred maintenance funding didn’t make the final budget leaving unfunded $19 million for the UAF Moore/ Bartlett student housing 50-year-old sanitation infrastructure and piping replacements, $11 million for 40-year-old heating and mechanical system replacements in multiple facilities at UAA and $2 million for roof and fuel tank replacements at UAS.
The board’s distribution plan of the $5 million received takes into account facility age and value. University of Alaska Anchorage will receive $1.6 million, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, $3.1 million and the University of Alaska Southeast, $300,000 to fund critical deferred maintenance needs.
Pitney expressed appreciation to Governor Dunleavey for releasing the FY22 funding for the Alaska Performance Scholarship, Alaska Education Grant and WWAMI medical student exchange program with a network of universities in other states. She noted that clarity on the status of the Higher Education Investment Fund, which is the source of funding for future Alaska Performance Scholarship, Alaska Education Grant and WWAMI, is very important.
During the Thursday meeting, the board voted unanimously to establish an undergraduate degree program in Early Childhood Education at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Prior to opening the program for enrollment, the State Board of Education must agree to certify graduates of the program until final accreditation is earned. Regents also approved a name change for the UAF School of Management to the College of Business and Security Management.
On Friday morning, regents discussed the university’s role in the development of critical minerals. Following a “Did You Know” video presentation, regents said they were encouraged by the research work being done across the system, which include exploration and extraction of these strategic minerals, workforce training for the mining industry, and the importance of a critical mineral industry to the state’s economy and national security.
“The spectrum of expertise is huge, especially with partnerships leveraged with the state survey and with other agencies outside the state,” said UAF Provost Anumpa Prakash. “For example, the technology I brought through my lab for rare earth element exploration was a partnership with the German Space Agency, NASA, and U.S. Geological Survey through a grant.”
More information on the ongoing ‘Did You Know’ spotlight series, designed to highlight university excellence and points of pride through storytelling and data, can be found here.
The Board of Regents will hold its next full board meeting Nov. 11-12 and topics for discussion will include finalizing the FY23 operating and capital budget requests and a differentiated tuition structure. More information can be found at www.alaska.edu/bor/.