UA looks at consolidating UAS as funds grow scarce - Must Read Alaska
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Wednesday, September 30, 2020
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UA looks at consolidating UAS as funds grow scarce

The University of Alaska Board of Regents Audit Committee report has revealed a larger-than-anticipated budget gap, and a short time frame during which to solve it, forcing some tough decisions dead ahead.

The Regents will consider solutions at their next meeting, June 4-5, including merging University of Alaska Southeast into either University of Alaska Anchorage or University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The university system as a whole is projecting a shortfall of $14-$40 million by fiscal year 2022, even after using $25 million in one-time funds.

The move comes at a time when the chancellor of the UAS campus, Dr. Richard Caulfield, is retiring after just five years, and the school is recruiting a successor.

The university system is suffering from declining enrollment, and predicts that the student body will drop dramatically in the next couple of years, along with tuition and fees:

Some of the options and the context for the decisions the regents face were posted in these documents last week:

UAS was established in 1987 with the restructuring and consolidation of the former University of Alaska Juneau, Ketchikan Community College, and Islands Community College.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Proably the best thing to do. Recently read an article and UAA was ranked in the top 20 for least effective schools because high tuition rates and low graduation rates. It has become an over bloated higher education system and needs to down sizeto produce better results

  • Johnsen should have been fired long ago. His crappy ideas are losers for the whole university system. Completely break up the UA system and campus issues, letting them put in their own budgets and programs. They would have a better managed set of campuses than what they have under this leadership or ever had in the past. Keep UAS separate. Keep UA Anchorage separate and UAF as well. They got more out of the budget this year than ever before. They also got a $300 million under the Mental Health program and then more from the COVID 19 monies. With that they have equal amounts from federal loans, out of pocket from the students and foundation and research monies they do not disclose.

    Johnsen is at the head of “criminal greed.” New campuses are being opened up as we write in other parts of the state under the same failing university system. How much, how long can the state be a burden for those schemes? Look at the Department of Labor’s Workforce Training Program. Theirs is an eye opener when a person marries up training money and education money.

  • Two campuses and the rest via distance learning. The flush times are gone for a long long time and the state, including the university, are years behind in taking appropriate actions to appropriately reduce their budgets.

    • Well said. I could not agree more. There are so many rural campuses that are seldom used, and the university either pays a high rent, or owns and pays high maintenance costs. It could all be done online and/or by renting space 1-2 nights a week at the local high school, and having proctors present for a fraction of the cost. This school system could run for 50% or less of what it is running for now, and turn out a much better product. We should be looking at ways that cost less per credit than they do outside, but deliver more effective results, so we educate and accredit more Alaskan young men and women and then keep them here adding to the qualifications and skill base of our own Alaskan workforce.

    • I’d long advocated for 3, but 2 will work nicely too. All public ed statewide is in line for a 50% haircut as they move to distance / online ed.

      UAA – general studies / nursing
      UAF – engineering / mining / sciences
      UAS – Fisheries / logging.

      Cheers –

      • Why do you advocate for a proven flawed model? The school s/b where the students are and any model that runs counter is the leading edge of another series of issues. How long did it take for the BSEE program once opened in ANC to surpass enrollment of FBX?

  • What an interesting dichotomy. Two years ago Johnsen thought that S/E should be the management hub for the entire UA program despite shrinking funding and despite the add’l cost of travel.

    Now it’s gone from the perfect management hub to the anvil around UA’s neck.

    You can’t delegate thinking and Johnsen’s got to go.

  • The University of Alaska should have never left Fairbanks, ballooning to such a unsustainable level that only a complete idiot could have failed to see the eventual collapse. The University should return to Fairbanks, the Anchorage campus should be shrunk down and converted to a community college. The shear volume of facilities consume such a level of money, just for maintenance and utilities, that there is no way to pay for them. It is criminal, the lack of stewardship that has led to this point of collapse.

    • The problem, speaking from actual experience, is that more than a few Alaskans will take a pass on going to Fairbanks to spend the winter. I tried it for a year. UAA offers a variety of programs In a more forgiving environment that could not be cost-effectively provided in Fairbanks. Absent an in-state alternative, UAF will fail to fulfill the obligation to provide higher education to many Alaskans.

  • If the UA would eliminate every person in every job, except for the President, from the statewide office on the West Ridge in Fairbanks, it would have plenty of money to run UAS without any impairment of educational quality. I would also sell the building. The extent of statewide administrative overstructure is beyond comprehension.

    • So true. A large part of their budget is upkeep on buildings they don’t need and don’t use. Admin staff is also heavy, but they have a lot of property and they don’t fill it and they don’t need it and it’s not cheap to maintain.

  • Close all the community colleges statewide and go to online teaching model. Sell land (its a “rainy day” now) from the Land Grant College (e.g. UAF) holdings. Eliminate all degree programs (and professors – if there is no longer a degree program then why have the professors that teaches in the now defunct program?) that are no longer nationally accredited or have never been nationally accredited. Just a few ideas.

    • One of the things that happened was that the UA system never got its complete allocation of lands as a Land Grant system. Granted, if they had the lands, they would have likely sold it to the Nature Conservancy and turned those lands into wilderness areas rather than mined, logged, drilled, fished or hunted them.

      Perhaps part of the current festivities would be for the delegation to transfer federal lands to the UA system. Cheers –

      • The problem with the solution offered in your last sentence is to found in the previous sentence. If we gave UA more land, they would create more wilderness rather than develop it.

  • Seems like there might have been somebody talking about this last year, ring any bells to anyone else? It’s too bad that the people in charge of this institution didn’t take some proactive measures and you know do something a year or two or five or ten ago.

  • Juneau Borough government agreed to kick in $1 million to support relocating the School of Education to Juneau. I don’t know if the amount was ever actually paid. But I think that every municipality with a campus needs to financially support keeping that campus. I also think that mediocre brick and mortar colleges and universities will require greater and greater subsidies because the relative value of those pieces of paper sold by colleges and universities is diminishing. A University of Alaska degree costs a lot more than an on-line degree. The eventual evaporation of easy money, which has now come to reality, was going to happen one day or another and the University was unprepared.

  • But where will all of the out of power/work Democrats go to find employment if the UA system really tries to consolidate? Think about it.

  • A more fundamental problem is that the UA colleges do not attract highly qualified students from the L48. The reason for that is UA’s open admissions policy. To attend a UA college one requires a pulse, a modicum of funds and nothing more. In 2019, according to the ADN, 47% of incoming freshman at UA required remedial training before moving on to college level classes. Typically remedial classes take three years to complete and by the time the student losses interest and money. But more importantly, why would the parents of a high achieving student in the L48 send their child to a college where almost half of the students are not doing college level work but instead receiving remedial training? That is important because out of state students pay higher tuition and associated fees.

  • Reading all the comments above I believe many have the suggested best solutions, if you remember the population of our State, and the high cost of supporting infrastructure and staff.
    I attended UA Anchorage in the 70’s and 80’s as a military pt evening student. It was known by everyone attending the UAA/ACC was primarily a night school with minimum full-time students. UAF was the primary f-t school with an emphasis on Engineering, Arctic Studies, Oil Industry support, any any other program where the students wanted the traditional full time degree. Both served their communities and AK well.

    I have 3 sons and two daughter-in-laws that all graduated from UAF. My three sons commuted from Europe to attend UAF. I have an additional grandson that is in college now. He did freshman yr at UAF, Sophomore yr at UAA but he is leaving Alaska. Both his parents are prior UAF grads. Our family loves AK and our first choice was to attend and graduate from the AK University system.

    He is leaving in utter disgust because of the constant upheaval, increasing fees and tuition and morale. He will be attending the ULVN next year. The facts are the system can’t continue operations and costs of the past. If you want both in-State and out of State students you need to provide stability in programs at a cost they can afford. When you forget to do the required work to remain program accreditations as in your teacher program, dropping the nursing program, and placing others in fear that their programs are next to be dropped damages the system almost beyond repair. Alaska needs nurses, doctors, dentists, law enforcement officers, Ocean and Fisheries, Engineering, and Oil Industry graduates and others I left out. You are here to serve the States needs by educating as many Alaskans as possible. The state produces world class athletes that need to know you will be here for them. The system also produces world class research programs mostly funded by grants.

    Recommendations:

    Close all locations and programs not provided by UAA and UAF. Those that want to attend from any other location must come to Anchorage or Fairbanks or use online distance learning. I read all the reports in the article. I did not see what I thought was a realistic study or selection of real options. Just bureaucratic discussion points to spend wasted hours and money discussing.

    Study how many students are served at every location, the type of student whether full time or part time. Location costs for facilities and staffing, compared to UAA and UAF. It may turn out the only location and school we can support is either UAA or UAF. This study needs to be done not just by the University system but include subject matter experts in the business cost utilization, effectiveness, and online learning fields.

    I also agree our State and Federal politicians need to pressure the government to transfer all lands due the State and particularly those for the University system. Concerning the possibility of turning the land into parks. The Federal or State politicians can include language directly that the land can only be transferred to income generating purposes and exclude transfers the lock up the land for any other purpose and very specifically what you can spend the income for.

    Our days of living off the oil fields are over for a long time. We have developed more available oil than the world can use. It won’t take the legislature long to spend every penny in the Permanent Fund rather than cut the budget in any meaningful way. Governor Dunleavy tried without any real success and the money hungry users of State funds are trying to recall the only Governor that has tried to cut it. Vote against their recall effort, re-elect Governor Dunleavy and vote for only legislators that are adults willing to cut the budget and pass reasonable taxes. Not just fees and taxes on Alaskans that can not afford them. Tax the visitors and businesses that take from Alaskans and not invest or pay taxes to the State.

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