Budget-cut aftermath: UA officials begin decision making

After the University of Alaska’s declaration of financial exigency on July 22, UA officials have planned progress toward reducing spending and voted on joining UA under a single accreditation.

UAA Chancellor Cathy Sandeen shared documents and information via email updating the UAA community on decisions being made, as well as possible plans on July 25.

Cathy Sandeen formerly served as the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin Colleges and the University of Wisconsin-Extension. She began at UAA on Sept. 15. Photo courtesy of Cathy Sandeen.

Included in that email was a reduction plan from UA President Jim Johnsen. The total $136 million taken from unrestricted general funds will be $50 million from UAA, $68 million from UAF, $10 million from UAS and $8 million from SW. 

One of the documents shared by Sandeen, a “Mission- Focus exercise,” laid out which programs would possibly be considered core, semi-core, periphery and outside of the core.

While no final decisions have been made regarding the structure of UAA’s future, Chancellor Sandeen shared the current options to give the community a chance to email input to [email protected]

“In the spirit of transparency, I wanted you to see some of the concepts and thinking and data behind them,” Sandeen said in a video on July 29. “Please send me your thoughts and reactions. I will read everything and we will take it into consideration.”

Sandeen’s email also included a spreadsheet showing reductions that have already been made and guiding principles for budget decisions.

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The Board of Regents voted eight to three on July 30 to bring all UA campuses under single accreditation. This decision does not yet have final approval.

“We’ll have more information during fall semester about what administrative units are being consolidated, what programs — academic programs — will be consolidated and how that will affect you,” Sandeen said in a video on July 31.

The time frame for changes to be confirmed and carried out is still unclear.

A meeting in September will be held to decide on an academic program structure.

“Over the next five to six weeks, in addition to getting ready for students coming onto campus, we’re going to be working hard on these administrative savings, on consolidation plans for academic programs and also on the accreditation issue,” President Johnsen said in a video on Aug. 1.

Johnsen expects that teams of faculty, staff and administrators, along with statewide leadership and subcommittees of the Board of Regents, will complete nearly finalized plan documents by the end of August.

“We’ll be posting those documents on the fifth of September and then they’ll be available for review and public testimony in advance of the board’s meeting on September 12th and 13th,” Johnsen said.

Both Johnsen and Sandeen have encouraged the UAA community to submit feedback and ask questions.

A large public audience attended the “Ask Me Anything” event hosted by UAA Chancellor Sandeen and other members of the Chancellor’s Cabinet on July 2. Photo by Jason Herr.

An “Ask Me Anything” session was held in the UAA/APU Consortium Library on Aug 2. UAA and Anchorage community members brought up many questions and concerns.

During the meeting, Chancellor Sandeen stated that UA rejected Gov. Dunleavy’s step-down proposal, a detailed plan for reducing state funds over the course of two years. 

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the governor and Legislature was working on another plan,” Sandeen said. “I don’t think the story is over on that question yet.”

On July 2, UAA Chancellor Sandeen met with the Anchorage community to answer questions about UAA’s future. Photo by Jason Herr.

Sandeen also promised to any students whose degree program was cut that UA would teach them out directly to finish their degrees or teach them out by transfer, which would mean assisting students in transferring to another school.

“You put your faith in us, you came here, you enrolled in a degree program, so we will get you a degree,” Sandeen said.

The factors under consideration for deciding what programs may be cut include enrollment, how many similar programs are in the state, graduation rate and special circumstance.

On top of questions, a student at the session suggested community building through the Care Team and rallies. Two other people in attendance suggested that retired UA employees and alumni volunteer to help fill the many vacant positions at the university.

Sandeen also revealed that an academic intervention team will be assembled to support and guide students when decisions regarding program changes, that will take effect after the fall semester, are made.

UAA will host a chance for people to call-in their testimonies a week before the Board of Regent’s final decision in September.