In contentious meeting, UA regents approve path to single accreditation - Must Read Alaska
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Friday, September 24, 2021
HomeThe 907In contentious meeting, UA regents approve path to single accreditation

In contentious meeting, UA regents approve path to single accreditation

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In an 8-3 vote and after hours of discussion, the University of Alaska Board of Regents directed UA President Jim Johnsen to pursue a single-accreditation model for the UA system. The plan to implement single accreditation would presumably eliminate much of the administration at UA’s individual campuses and centralize system administration at one yet-to-be-determined location.

The detailed plan for implementation, which Johnsen will present to the board in September, will likely also include consolidating academic programs and schools (such as engineering, education, and business) and ramping up the university’s focus on online education.

Regents met in Anchorage Tuesday morning to continue discussions of the university’s future in the face of a 41 percent reduction of unrestricted general funds from the state of Alaska, amounting to a 17 percent to the system’s budget overall. Today’s meeting was the regents’ third special meeting to be held this month.

While the possibility of the Alaska Legislature partially restoring funding to the university remains, the governor’s veto power looms and university administrators had previously outlined to regents the increasing severity of cuts required with each passing month of inaction.

The university system’s three chancellors presented on option 2, a so-called “consortium model” between the three main campuses (UAA, UAF, and UAS) that would rely on inter-campus collaboration for cost-saving. In this model, the three main campuses would maintain their own separate accreditations as well as administrators such as vice-chancellors, provosts, and deans. A “leaner” statewide administration would have less control in the day-to-day operations of the system’s campuses.

While regents ultimately elected not to adopt this plan, they directed Johnsen to “work with the chancellors” to implement the new single-accreditation model.

Gov. Michael Dunleavy telephoned into the regents’ meeting in the midst of their budget and structural discussions. Dunleavy recalled his personal connection to the university (he received his master’s degree at UAF) and affirmed his support for the institution despite his veto of over $130 million in state funding.

The governor’s Office of Management and Budget Policy Director Mike Barnhill presented at length to the board about a proposed “step-down” deal in which this year’s reduction would be spread over two years, with an approximately $85 million reduction for FY20. Barnhill recommended that the board work to decrease “administrative overhead” across the system and only making reductions of academic programs as a last resort. It is unclear if the regents accepted that offer.

The regents’ next scheduled meeting is Sept. 12-13 in Juneau, though it is possible that another special meeting is held before that time.

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Latest comments

  • It’s time. Time to stop the bleeding. Budget cuts or not. The pork in this system has got to get sliced.

  • Finally, the UA is being forced to.make some sound, reasonable and prudent decisions. DUNLEAVY STRONG!!!

  • FINALLY, Executive Administration making management decisions so as to work within a specific budget and deliver a quality product. Of course, this comes with making tough decisions.

  • Step down approach? Bad idea! UA will spend half that much money and twice that in time mobilizing an army of lobbyists to try and prevent next years step down.

    • Once again, no matter what UA will do, or even propose, Scott is unhappy. Maybe Scott just wants to get rid OF UA.

      P.S. By the way, UA has been getting leaner and leaner from an administrative point of view for the past 4 years, if you haven’t noticed!

  • This is good. Credits should be interchangeable with a single core system. 3 colleges in 1 isn’t a good deal for anyone. Bureaucrats at heart always resist centralization and simplification.

    • I like this idea, it was my favorite.

      When I first came to Alaska, I found weird, if not say wrong to have 3 Campus for this state.

      I think it’s the best we can do, with people working with each other. Sure it won’t be a great time to be a student during the reaccreditation process, but I’m sure UA will end up to be much stronger. This may not please everybody in the state.

  • If I were a UA student, I would be transferring my credits ELSEWHERE STAT, before our university president drives it off the cliff.
    He has known these cuts were coming for years, AS HAS the legislature, they just keep whistling past the graveyard and banking on stealing evermore from the people who bother to work.

  • Johnson and a few of his staff need to be investigated and “fired” from the the University system. That guy has done a lousy job. Dunleavy is out of his mind to allow this to continue with Johnson and staff that put the university system in jeopardy. So to Governor Dunleavy…..grow up and get rid of the these people.

    • Tttt
      Johnsen and a few of his staff should not be fired. The Governor should be recalled.

  • This makes perfect sense for Alaska’s tiny population.

    Why did the UA system become such a behemoth to begin with?

    It’s certainly not justifiable from an economic standpoint!

    • You know Damon, it’s the good old story of every city want part of the UA pie.

      When I came to Alaska, I found quite a good idea to have the political capital in Juneau, the economic capital in Anchorage and the academic capital in Fairbanks. It makes some sense. With such a large state as Alaska, it’s nice to have a little bit of a capital near to your home.

      • When did you come to Alaska, Marc? Tell me, Marc, were you born and raised in the great state of California? Or Oregon? Your socialistic ideals will NEVER take root, here in Alaska. Go back, from whence you came. And please take Bill Whankee with you. “heheh”

        • Say Emily, that’s “Yank my Doodle, it’s a Dandy.”
          For you to arbitrarily bring me up in your rant about socialistic ideals must mean I’ve struck a nerve. And further, this must mean you have a great argument for it-care to give it?

  • Excellent job Big Mike! Streamlining the university into one entity is something that should have been done years and years ago. Things are looking up!

    • Come on, the Old School Alaskan, this isn’t at all the job of Governor Dunleavy. This is a decision of the Board of Regent. The only thing the Governor did is the promise of gutting the UA, no question asked!

      • Marc,

        Do you really think that the Board of Regents would have made this decision on their own? They haven’t done it before now, did something maybe change and make them make decision?

    • Consolidate the University of Alaska administration in Fairbanks where it started and should remain.

  • No step down, it’s like a Band-Aid……………..just rip that sucker off!

    • Yeah, No step down, No $1600PFD, just rip that sucker off. NO PFD. LET’S GET TAXED

    • Yet another fantastically insightful comment.

  • Johnson needs to step up and make prudent business decisions.
    He’s the president and CEO of the UA. Act like one! No more whining like crybaby. He makes nearly $500K per year. Also, he needs to man up and tell Old Lefty John Davies to take a hike. Maybe up to a melting glacier so Davies can study it from his canoe.

  • Barnhill did a very good job articulating what needed to be cut. In a nutshell FAIRBANKS ADMINISTRATION.

    Problem, who has all the power now with a “one” UAA system. Be sure Barnhill and the governor are not pleased with this outcome. Hopefully there is more negotiating.

    • UA system…

    • If this does goes forward it’s going to be UAA and a less efficient bureaucracy. I’m not at all convinced that we have fewer bureaucrats. I’m guessing that most people on here are for federalism and local control and it’s ironic that some are cheering consolidation and central control.

  • Break up the university system as it is now. Fairbanks, UAF is good for farming and that’s about it. UAA Anchorage, is good for business and oil industry issues, international and national. UAS in Southeast is good for science, fisheries and game, government, political for national and international. All countries go to UAS for a look see. Get rid of the criminals, Johnson and his group…get on with a unique identity of image the University of Southeast Alaska should have. Each small campus can be reconstructed/design to fill needs of close communities’ education/vocational/trade purpose. Feds need to investigate the federal money in student loans that Johnson is hiding…what happened to that and the reason for raising student tuition and fees so high. Johnson is problem, problem and more problems.

  • Listening carefully to Mr. Barnhill’s comments, one could be concerned that a “single university” solution could increase costs overall, if the UAF cost model is adopted for all campuses. This is the second time he rightly emphasized that UAF has administrative costs more than double UAA, and more than double those of peer institutions outside Alaska. One of the reasons Alaska ended up with the current mess was a sense of unbridled entitlement emanating from UAF and Statewide Administration, while customers in other parts of the state languished with whatever crumbs fell off the table. The result was other campuses working like mad to avoid dealing with the “Federal Overreach” emanating from the “Flagship.” Decades later, here we are. So, I hope the overall model is more in line with a UAA or UAS approach.

    Another caution: in the mid-80’s, community campuses were consolidated with the nearest Universities in order to save money. The result was higher costs for students and a sustained struggle to remain funded and relevant in the local community.

    Through no fault of their own, the Regent’s missed an opportunity to suggest that back office tasks could be “contracted-in” to the most cost effective service provider at each unit. I fear instead that services will be centralized in Fairbanks whether or not it is more expensive per unit of service.

    Let this be a lesson to all bureaucratic endeavors where good enough becomes the standard, and the law of unintended consequences stymies the best intentions. Here is hoping this wake-up call based on shrinking state support to a more rational level will allow the best ideas to emerge, regardless of location. Alaska deserves a local, cost effective and relevant system of higher education.

    • Well said.
      No one really knows that the “single university” model is but I’m always skeptical of claims that centralization will lead to lowered costs.
      I have ZERO confidence in Barnhill who believes that the university can just find 35 million under the couch cushions. His testimony was embarrassing.

      I mean, really, I how many times do you need to say “I’m not sure if I have that right” before people say “why are you here”?
      Let’s hope the governor’s vetoes can be overturned and we can start undoing the damage this clown has inflicted on the state.

  • Now I know why Jerkowitz et al. want to fund $1000/nt. beds at Brother Francis; they need to provide luxurious accommodations for all the failed and former Democrat politicians who’ll lose their jobs if the UA consolidates.

  • Given that the payroll for “statewide administration” ($60 million +-) exceeds that for either professors in classes or researchers in labs I am not optimistic that either the performance or the economics of the University are going to improve.

  • Eighty-five percent of the university administrators in Anchorage will be cut; eighty-five percent of the administrators in Fairbanks will be retained. This is the long-awaited chance for UAF to inflict their will on UAA.

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