University of Alaska leaders anticipate severe difficulties in boosting enrollment with the prospect of a $135 million cut to state funding for the university following Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s announcement of 182 line-item vetoes on Friday.
UA President Jim Johnsen said “it’s brutally difficult” to bring students to enroll at the university, given the years of ongoing budget cuts.
“We have been taking cuts year after year after year after year,” Johnsen said, “and you can see it in our enrollment numbers too.”
Barring a veto override by the Legislature, Regent John Davies said funding put aside for recruitment efforts would no longer be available.
“The regents have allowed the administration to cut a little deeper, put some extra money aside for some things and one of those is recruitment,” Davies said, “because we recognize that we — in order to turn this college-going statistic around, to improve our retention rates and all these kinds of things — that we need to put extra effort into that.
“Well there won’t be any extra money for anything, under this scenario,” he continued.
Enrollment has been declining systemwide for a number of years. Between fall semester 2014 and fall semester 2018, there was a 15.5% decline in enrollment across all campuses, according to figures from UA Data Strategy and Institutional Research. The year between fall 2017 and fall 2018 accounts for 4% of the total overall decline across those four years.
At the University of Alaska Fairbanks, between fall 2014 and fall 2018, enrollment fell from 9,992 full- and part-time students to 8,336, a 16% decline.
Johnsen said he has not yet seen enrollment numbers for the coming semester but that he expects there will be an impact, even if the Legislature overrides the veto.
He also expressed concern that the declining enrollment is not attributed to students dropping out but rather to people not electing to go to college at all.
“That’s the biggest, long-term very, very negative effect of this action,” he said.
Contact staff writer Kyrie Long at 459-7510. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMlocal.