University faces tough choices in June - Must Read Alaska
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Wednesday, October 20, 2021
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University faces tough choices in June

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The University of Alaska is facing immediate and significant financial headwinds brought on by state budget cuts, enrollment and tuition declines and budget impacts visited upon us by the COVID-19 crisis.

And like the virus itself, this budget challenge is real, painful, and one that demands that we take swift action to protect our university and its critical mission and service to Alaskans.

The Board of Regents governs the university and it is our job, our responsibility to address this challenge now before it overtakes our ability to respond quickly. That means tough choices will be before us in June for consideration. 

As in any crisis, the Board of Regents must reconcile the need to take action with a great number of unknowns and the uncertainty about how we must adapt and change. I share these concerns, but we must, and we will face them. 

To begin with, we have a process for how to think about and ultimately make needed decisions – a process that started in early May when regents asked to better understand the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the university’s finances. Two weeks later, on May 13, President Johnsen provided us that information, and it was a sobering moment as we realized the serious budget gap we faced. 

The committee then directed the president to present options to the Board of Regents at the meeting in June and asked that these options provide real change for transforming the university and solving the financial imbalance. Possible options for transformation came from many sources including those gathered from previous reviews, community campus directors, governance representatives, the chancellors and others. The options were reviewed by our leadership and by our business and academic councils. A list of final options was developed, which you can find at

An additional part of the process includes the discussions that the chancellors and the president are having with their respective communities, as well as the two public testimony sessions the board has and will hold to hear from anyone interested in providing us with input. 

In addition to these opportunities, we welcome and encourage you to continued to provide ideas for our consideration. 

I know there will be disagreement and concern about these options. Already we’ve heard many voices and many opinions about them, but the Board of Regents may need to make some tough decisions in June that will provide for transformative action. You will be integral to helping us solve the challenges to build a better future and position the university to be stronger and more sustainable.

The board may make immediate decisions or ask for more information with a decision to be made at a future meeting. Regardless, the choices will be tough and impact people, but the numbers paint a picture that we cannot ignore 

The board understand that these actions will impact everyone, but we accept that change is necessary and we will take up the discussion and actions with our eyes wide open. 

Our decisions will be informed by our revenue picture as well as by our best understanding of what our enrollment will be and what any future budget constraints will be, and while there is absolutely no pleasure in making these hard choices, I can promise you that our values will guide us in all of our actions, and that we will continue to put the well-being of our students, staff and faculty first. 

Sheri Buretta is the chair of the University of Alaska Board of Regents.

Donations Welcome


Latest comments

  • Sheri,

    I was a Regent and Board President in 1985 when Alaska’ State budget was impacted by low oil prices
    I tried to get the Board to consider the following:
    1) cut the budget by $30 million with program reduction. Year 1 use the $30M to cleanup deferred Maintenance.
    2) Cut WAMI and start a new program to insure Ak students access to med schools
    3) Prioritize ALL U programs 1=essential to Ak and U core 2=important for AK jobs 3=maybe 4=eliminate

    I was voted down 9 to 1 on all proposals, and for #3 I was the only regent that returned a prioritized list
    I live in Kenai and would meet with you and the Board if it has any value. I’m retired Chevron and spent the last half of my career solving operations that had poor performance. I am not an administrator; I am a manager. When Gov Sheffield appointed me to the Board, That is what he asked me to do, The University has lots of Administarators…..however few managers…. You as president nd the other Regents must do that, and it will not be easy…I know I caught a of heat for trying to get the UA on a managed path. If you have questions or would like to meet some time…my contact is [email protected]
    Good luck..Remember anything you do… cannot make them all happy Bob Williams

  • I see where the author pledges to be guided by “our values” in making decisions. Stuff like caring, sharing, feeling warm, fairness and acting with great political correctness, I expect. They might have greater success if they applied some functional principles like providing a high-quality education to the greatest number of Alaskans at a cost equivalent to the available revenues. Just something to think about.

    • Brought to you by Jim Johnson’s alleged leadership.

      UAF needs to choose a president with higher skills now that he is leaving his train wreck behind.

  • I said administrator – Bob said it better manager. The curricula need to be cutback to what is most useful for the Alaskan work environment and situaton. Students will just have to go outside for some of the more esoteric curricula. And, most importantly, the budget can’t support 17 campuses. Students will just have to commute to and live at a couple main campuses

  • Trim the fat and get back to just delivering classes, to as many people as you can as affordably as you can and quit wasting your own money and everyone else’s!

    The story of the university is a really sad one, of waste, abuse, mismanagement and just plain apathy and ineptitude. In the early 90s I can remember UAF being on US News top ten schools in terms of value, and then to see UAA lose its accreditation a couple years back? Quite a change in that time. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it also doesn’t happen with out a lot of really bad decisions and without a lot of people at the helm who fundamentally didn’t care or couldn’t admit they didn’t know how to steward these institutions.

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