Gov. Michael Dunleavy today signed a compact with the University of Alaska, which says the governor will only veto $25 million from the system this year, $25 million next year, and $20 million the following year, for a total of $70 million over the three years of the agreement.
The University System will continue its path toward a combined accreditation system, and will continue working with the federal government to obtain more land, which it could use to raise money.
In a press conference with University of Alaska System President Jim Johnsen and Board of Regents Chairman John Davies, the governor reiterated his earlier statements about the need for a conversation about the budget. His original cut to the university system was $135 million in one year.
When he ran for office, North Slope oil was selling for $80-$85 a barrel, but by the end of December, it was down to $55 a barrel, and Dunleavy said had to take a more keen look at the budget to adapt to less revenue.
UA President Jim Johnsen described it as a “pivot to the positive” and said the system would continue to consolidate in human resources and technology, for example. The average position at the university across all campuses is about $100,000, including health benefits, he said.
“We’ve been working for some time on an agreement with regard to funding of the university, Dunleavy said. The talks started in January and will continue.
Consolidating to single accreditation is not required by the compact signed today.
Under the terms of the compact, the university will report to the Office of the Governor and the Alaska Legislature no later than Dec. 4 of each of the three years of the agreement regarding progress the university has made on these items:
- Operating cost reductions.
- Administrative overhead reductions.
- Strengthening the role of community campuses.
- Growth in monetization of university assets.
- Enrollment and degree/certification completion rates.
- Campus safety and regulatory compliance.
- Research income.
- Other non-State income increases, such as tuition, philanthropic gifts.
- Development of university lands.
- Technology investments to lower costs and increase access.
- Structural consolidation and consideration of single accreditation.
In exchange, the governor has agreed to:
- Support budget amounts agreed upon.
- Support expanded full-enrollment of college-ready high school students.
- Support FAFSA completion of high school students
- Continue support for the Alaska Performance Scholarship and Alaska Education Grant programs.
- Explore more appropriate structure for WWAMI appropriation.
- Be open to discussions surrounding inter-appropriation transfers and pursue single-appropriation structure consistent with the Board of Regents constitutional authority.
- Continue $1.2 million each year of the agreement for facility debt reimbursement.
- Support land grant transfers.
- Support increased collaboration between state agencies and the university.
- Consider other budget items that support university transformation.
Sen. Scott Kawasaki of Fairbanks called it “extortion” on Twitter. “The @UA_System is supposed to be independent. Why should it now be politicized? And subject to a budget created by 2 when the legislature is the appropriating branch of government?” he wrote.