UA Board of Regents

UA regents meet in the Butrovich Building and via video conference April 8 to consider President Jim Johnsen's recommendation to discontinue initial licensure teacher education programs at UAA and discuss the university's FY20 budget.

The chairman of the University of Alaska board of regents will appoint a task force to study restructuring the university amid an uncertain funding future from Gov. Mike Dunleavy and state lawmakers.

The regents' decision to authorize creation of the task force came at a special meeting Thursday in Anchorage. The UA budget was the subject of the meeting.

Regents Chairman John Davies of Fairbanks said the governor and the Legislature have “strongly encouraged” the university to review its structure and to look for other ways to reduce its budget, according to a Friday news release from the university.

“We also recognize that budget tightening will continue for the foreseeable future,” Davies said. “The task force would gather input, be transparent in its process, and look at how best to move the university forward,” he said. “We can move quickly.”

UA spokeswoman Robbie Graham, in response to an emailed question from the Daily News-Miner, said regents "were not specific about the scope or extent of structural changes."

Davies was attending a graduation ceremony at UA's Dillingham campus on Friday.

The university’s budget for the coming fiscal year has been one of the focal points of debate about Dunleavy’s proposed state budget for fiscal 2020, which begins July 1.

Dunleavy proposed a 41 percent reduction — $134 million — in the state’s portion of the university’s budget.

State funding of $327 million to UA accounts for about one-third of the university’s total $889 million budget in the current fiscal year. The also university receives funds from the federal government and other sources, some of which is contingent on a funding match from the state.

Both chambers of the Legislature have rejected Dunleavy’s treatment of the university. The Senate approved a budget that reduces university funding $5 million; the House has approved a $10 million reduction.

Even so, the reductions continue several years of funding rollbacks for the university. The prospect of further reductions in the years ahead led regents to create a task force to study what more can be done.

“As we continue to advocate for strong public and legislative support, we are also prepared to make changes that will improve quality and access to higher education opportunities for all Alaskans," UA President Jim Johnsen told the board, according to the news release.

The task force will be aided by consultants from the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems and has been instructed to report preliminary recommendations to the board of regents in September.

Comment will be sought from students, faculty, staff and the general public before any final board decision, the news release reads.

This story has been updated to correct who will appoint the task force. A previous version incorrectly stated that UA President Jim Johnsen would appoint the panel.

Contact News-Miner Editor Rod Boyce at 459-7585. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMeditor.