Tuition and the uncertain future at UAA

The University of Alaska has experienced many changes in recent years, but the fall of 2017 is when many of the adjustments are planned to be implemented. From tuition raises, program cuts, and a declining class selection, the future of UAA seems nothing short of unclear.

News that another program has been cut, another five percent tuition raise was approved or rumor that respected athletics are to be eliminated are just some of the changes that seem to be never-ending.

Attending a university that is experiencing major modifications is challenging when you wish to pursue a degree that isn’t quite as common as engineering, nursing or biology.

Pooja Kumar, a sophomore at UAA is one of those students. Kumar wishes to pursue a degree in environmental science, which has recently been cut from the university catalog.

“I currently know that the program is suspended, and I know there are some people who are getting an environmental science degree that will be graduating in a few years. I know that there are ways if you work with the department, they might give you the major, but so far if you look on UAA’s website there’s been nothing about Environment and Society, my preferred major. It just clearly says that this program has been suspended,” Kumar said. “It makes me sad to know that my major is no longer here, and I most likely am going to have to transfer. I really do want to pursue a major in environmental science and since UAA can’t really provide that, I’ll have to find a university that will.”

Like environmental science, there are several other departments being temporarily suspended or getting cut from the university, leaving many students and staff unsure of what to do next.

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Photo credit: Jian Bautista

Adeline Schlabaugh, an instructor in the chemistry department, which has been put on temporary suspension, is one of the remaining staff trying to get the program back up and running.

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“It is unfortunate that the program has been suspended, but it would be worse to accept new enrollments and not offer a clear path to graduation. We simply couldn’t guarantee specialized courses would be offered on a regular basis, such as biophysical or inorganic chemistry. If we were to accept new majors, we would have to send students outside of UAA to take these classes. Those of us currently teaching are putting incredible hours into the preparation of our courses and execution of our workloads, and every single one of us wants to see the program revitalized,” Schlabaugh said.

The consistent changes occurring at the university have been rough on many students, staff and faculty, but they are also nerve-racking for a lot of future Seawolves.

Morgan Cleary, an Anchorage resident who is enrolling at UAA next year in hopes of becoming a dental hygienist, is concerned to hear about the extensive financial adjustments.

“I’ve been told tuition costs are rising five percent and could possibly be continued in the future, while scholarships are reducing each year along with it. Financial aid cannot keep up with rising tuition which costs students, or future students, like myself to pay more money out of pocket for a higher education. This concerns me greatly and is alarming because I’ve already taken time off from school since graduating in 2015 because I could not afford to attend school right away,” Cleary said. “The changes are discouraging me to even want to go to college. Soon, only the rich will be able to afford an education and the poor will be left in the wake of high tuition costs. I believe that we need to do everything we can as students and future students to stop rising tuition prices before it’s too late.”

Through all of the utter confusion that has transpired from changes at the University of Alaska and at UAA, it is imperative for students, staff and future Seawolves to stay unified through it all.