By KOBE RIZK
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.