UAA leadership hosted a town hall on Friday to discuss the Alaska congressionally-approved budget for the University of Alaska system. The operating budget has been set at $317 million. The Board of Regents had previously requested an operating budget of $341 million, 10 percent less than FY14’s budget of $378 million. Pat Shier, Interim Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services, hosted the forum and said the compromised amount between the Senate and the House is a relief, seeing as the Senate proposed an operating budget of $303 million.
“This is not a high five by any means, but it is a relief,” Shier said at the Town Hall. “We still face some significant challenges.”
At the Town Hall, Shier presented a series of slides that explained how the University’s budget has declined since FY14, what reduction UAA will face and FY18 strategic investment areas. From FY14 to FY17, the University of Alaska has faced an operating budget cut of 14 percent, with the consequence of 50 academic degree or certificate programs being discontinued or suspended, 933 fewer faculty and staff and enrollment decline, according to materials presented by Shier.
For FY18 there are four areas the University of Alaska system is prioritizing as investments. The first area is student success and enrollment. In a previous article, “Decreasing Enrollment Prompts New Initiatives To Combat Falling Student Numbers,” Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Services, Lora Volden, stated that student enrollment at UAA has decreased 13 percent since its peak in 2011. Other areas that the University is investing in are research, workforce development and online program development and finally, process improvement/automation.
The University of Alaska is also hoping for $5 million in the capital budget, which is still to be considered by the legislature. After a call for questions was left unanswered, Shier said University leadership would continue to update faculty and staff.
“The question I wish they would ask us, and that we could answer in this way, is will the university be here this summer, tomorrow, and the answer is an emphatic yes,” Shier said. “We will be here to educate students this summer as we are today on this campus. And this fall enrollment for traditional students is actually up. So there is a bright future for the University.”
The compromised budget announcement means that UAA will still be operating through FY18, beginning on July 1.