Public Affairs

February 17, 2006

Tuition Grants Target Cash-Strapped Students

The University of Alaska Board of Regents at its Juneau meeting this week established a new tuition grant program aimed at financially needy students in their first two years of college.
The vote was unanimous, following a year of discussion at numerous board meetings. Regents have repeatedly expressed a desire to increase efforts to help financially strapped students.
“This is a very significant step that we’ve taken to help our students who need it most,” said Jacob Gondek, student regent from Anchorage. “This program will help 2,200 students get off to a great start in their college career and reduce the amount of loans they must take out.”
The UA plan, which will be administered consistently throughout the university’s 16 campuses, would provide $400 per semester, or $800 per academic year, for up to 2,200 students. The program, which would cost approximately $1.8 million a year, would be funded by redirecting some existing financial aid and shuffling some internal funding priorities.  University officials expect the program to be in place within the next two fiscal years. 
Several new academic programs were also approved, including an associate of applied science degree in digital art at the University of Alaska Anchorage, offered at Kenai Peninsula College; a graduate certificate in supply chain management at the UAA; and post-baccalaureate certificates in elementary and secondary education, and for school counselor licensure, at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
The packed agenda also included a review of the university’s land development plan for 2006.  Regents approved the plan, which allows UA land managers to now go forward with a more detailed financial and environmental evaluation of the parcels, which range from a residential subdivision near North Pole to timber prospects near Petersburg.  For a complete look at the 2006 plan, go to
Board members also approved changes to the university’s optional retirement program for new employees hired after July 1. The plan, called the New Optional Retirement Program, would require a three-year vesting period for employer contributions, currently capped at 12 percent. In addition, eligibility for the University Pension Plan, a separate benefit, would require an employee to select the optional plan rather than the state sponsored retirement programs known as TRS and PERS.  The changes also open up the optional program to new staff after July 1, whereas currently it is offered as an option for faculty and executives only.

The changes to the New Optional Retirement Program will affect only new hires after July 1, 2006 who choose the optional program over PERS or TRS.  The changes do not affect current employees participating in the program.
The board also adopted a broad policy regarding university held licenses for broadcast stations, stipulating that the board avoid programming decisions to ensure editorial credibility, integrity and independence.
In other business, board members heard a report from the Juneau consulting firm, the McDowell Group, about a recent public opinion survey that shows strong support for the university across the state; as well as reports on new technologies and traditional Native culture from President’s Professors Richard Dauenhauer and Jason Ohler, of the UAS campus.  Board members also met with individual state representatives and senators about university funding and legislative issues; attended a luncheon with Gov. Frank Murkowski at the Governor’s Mansion; and attended a dinner honoring former regent Mike Burns.
For more information, call Kate Ripley at 907/450-8102 or 907/388-3506.

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