Alaska University’s budget has reportedly been cut by $8m for the upcoming academic year, according to Wednesday’s conference committee.

The Budget Cut

Alaska University’s budget was reportedly cut by $8 million- down to a state funding of $317 million- for its upcoming academic year, according to Wednesday’s Legislature conference committee.

Governor Bill Walker had proposed earlier in the year, that state funding reach a budget of $325 million this year, similar to the previous year. Shortly after this proposal was another one suggesting that the funding be dropped to $303 million.

On Thursday, the Board of Regents of Alaska University held a meeting in Fairbanks in order to discuss this.

The university will most likely have to have program and faculty cuts in order to accommodate the new budget. This will be in addition to continuing its “Strategic Pathways,” which is a plan put in place to streamline and consolidate academic programs in the university.

Comments on the Cut

“This is not the time for high-fives,” said Jim Johnsen, the university’s President Jim Johnsen at the meeting. “I think I can say that there’s a sense of relief that the number is not $303 (million) or $309 (million). There’s the likelihood that we’ll continue operations so that’s a positive, but it’s more a sense of relief than a sense of celebration.” He noted that there is a continual trend of cutting budgets for the university system and that there was a $61 million cut over the last four years.

“It’s a cumulative cut,” Johnsen said. “That’s why there are 933 fewer staff and faculty.”

“Either direct or implied contracts with students require teach out, so some of the savings that you might get by reducing a program don’t get realized for, two, three, four years in some cases,” Regent John Davies said, regarding how the university will accommodate the lowered budget.

“There is not, in the budget proposal, a midyear tuition increase,” Johnsen said. “We do, however, believe that it’s appropriate and necessary to continue regular, modest tuition increases in the future. It’s unlikely we need this, but out of an abundance of caution, we need a plan for how we would continue to operate,”

“One thing that is certain is that we have much more hard work to do,” Johnsen said. “Both in terms of supporting this budget and in making the tough management decisions that are going to be required to absorb the cuts and to make the investments looking forward.”

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