With the cut in state funding reduced from a proposed $136 million to $20 million this fiscal year, University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen said the full consolidation plan he had been tasked with earlier this summer may not be necessary to its full extent for now.
Johnsen noted the diminished urgency for extreme consolidation efforts in a weekly video update posted earlier this week.
“When the board met we were looking at $136 million budget cut in one year. The board has already declared financial exigency and we needed to move out very, very quickly,” Johnsen said in the video.
Johnsen noted the change to a plan to institute at $70 million cut over three years, with the first cut of $25 million to take place this fiscal year.
“It didn’t change the fact that we’ve got to save money ... but it did give us a little bit of breathing room,” Johnsen said. “We’re taking our time a little bit now with the academic planning in particular.”
The president noted he will present a plan to the board in September, but it may just not be “the plan.”
“It’ll be more a request to move forward with program reviews,” Johnsen said.
Johnsen presented his thoughts on the plan to the Board of Regents Subcommittee on University Structure meeting in Fairbanks on Wednesday afternoon.
During his presentation, Johnsen noted the importance of ensuring that academics is the last area to be cut during the process of significantly reducing university spending but added that he anticipates cuts will land on all areas of the university.
“The last thing we want to do is pull costs out of academics and put it into administration,” Johnsen said.
Outlined during the meeting was Johnsen’s list of possible programs to review beginning this fall semester.
Included in the list of programs is engineering, teacher education, health, management and business, natural sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities, Alaska Native studies, career and technical education, eLearning, organized research, public service, libraries and athletics. The list noted that other programs could be included but were not listed at the time.
Final changes would not be set to go into effect for another year, according to Johnsen.
The board would make decisions about structural changes in November and plans to administer program changes, student transitions and any accreditation issues that need to be addressed in December; a process that would last until June.
“Once the board makes its decision in November about a new structure — whatever is determined by the board — we would transition in the summer of 2020 and be operational with those changes in the fall,” Johnsen said.
The Board of Regents is set to meet again Sept. 12-13 in Anchorage. The meeting will be broadcast live at www.alaska.edu/bor/live.
Prior to that meeting, the Regents will hold an audio-conferenced public hearing from 4-6 p.m. Sept. 9 to hear concerns and comments from Alaskans on the topic of consolidation and other issues. Those interested in testifying can call 1-866-726-0757.
This story has been updated to correct that this year's budget reduction is $25 million, not $20 million.
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMPolitics.