Board of Regents: Tuition hike in, single accreditation out
A 10 percent spike in tuition stood out in a draft budget presented by UA President Jim Johnsen at the first of two Board of Regents meetings held this weekend in Juneau.
The increase would generate about $10 million, according to Johnsen.
This rise comes in addition to the 5 percent raise that was implemented at the beginning of this year. Other departments, including engineering, are subject to further increases.
This preliminary budget has several lengthy processes to go before being implemented. Johnsen plans to bring his proposal to the Board of Regents meeting in Fairbanks in November for a vote.
If approved, the budget would have to be passed through the state legislature. Any final budget depends on how much money is allocated to the university for the year by state lawmakers.
Echoing his commentary at a UAF public forum earlier in the semester, Johnsen said of a potential 5 to 10 percent cut to the UA’s state funding in the upcoming fiscal year. This reduction, which could range from $16 million to $32 million, was not accounted for in Johnsen’s draft budget.
At their second meeting Friday morning, the board decided against a single-accreditation model for the University system. The Board of Regents’ response to the accreditation report was mixed, but the decision was ultimately made without needing a vote.
“I’m reluctant to introduce something different on top of the momentum that we have going with Strategic Pathways,” Jo Heckman, Board of Regents chair, said.
Johnsen joined the conversation after giving the board some time to discuss the issue amongst themselves, saying he fears a single accreditation model would diminish the diversity of having three specialized campuses.
“I think there are significant benefits to the diverse and focused missions of three different institutions,” Johnsen said. “We have a flagship research university [UAF], we have a comprehensive metropolitan university [UAA] and we have a regional university that’s been incredibly innovative with distance education [UAS].”
While the three programs currently under review are business, engineering and education, education faces the most changes as they hope to both reduce costs and improve performance, Johnsen said.
There were five options provided for possible changes to the school of management and business, the most cost effective of which was to create a model with three deans over all three schools as opposed to the current dean for each main campus program.
Options presented by Johnsen for the school of engineering were to consolidate to one college and one administration but with two locations at UAF and UAA, or to simply keep schools at each campus but collaborate to better align the programs.
One suggestion included the consolidation of the school of education, moving from three schools each with a dean of their own, to one school with one dean, delivering specialties at each university. The lead university for this position and program has yet to be determined.
Teacher retention has been issue of particular focus lately, according to President Johnsen as well as Interim Chancellor Thomas. While the education program at the University of Alaska is popular, many graduates leave the state after receiving their degree rather than staying and teaching in Alaska. A significant number of our K-12 teachers are imports from the Lower 48, Johnsen said at the public forum in Fairbanks.
According to school board statistics, of the recent 800 new recruits, costing nearly $15 million a year, only 240 are trained by UAF. His longterm goal is that 60 percent of new teacher hires will be Alaskan trained by 2020, and subsequently 90 percent by 2025, Johnsen said.
Johnsen and the Board feel this improvement in education would not only improve teacher retention in Alaska but in turn improve education in primary and secondary schooling, subsequently upping the rate of Alaskan students attending college.
The Board backed Johnsen’s proposal unanimously and will convene in November to discuss details.
While athletics was on the chopping block several weeks ago to the chagrin of many community members in Fairbanks, Johnsen and the Board have passed legislation in an effort to help protect UA athletics in some form.
If there are to be cuts, Johnsen said, they would be simply paring down the already existing sports, keeping the most popular and cutting others. As UAF only has 10 teams, this move would necessitate waiving of NCAA rules dictating any participating campus must have at least 10 sports teams.
The other option for athletics is a consortium model which would treat UAF and UAA as one single university with regard to their athletics and teams; one hockey team for both, one ski team for both, etc. The waiving of the NCAA 10 team rule was the more popular of the choices.
UAF was recognized by Johnsen for their athletics budget, requiring only $3.3 million to Anchorage’s $3.5 million.