Public Affairs

September 22, 2009

UA Regents consider new programs, tuition at Juneau meeting

For Immediate Release
Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2009

The University of Alaska Board of Regents heads to Juneau this week to face a heavy agenda that includes several new degree and certificate programs, including undergraduate certificates in ethnobotany and environmental studies; a graduate certificate in construction management; Bachelor of Science degree programs in nutrition and dietetics; and a corrections certificate.

The 11-member board also will consider tuition rates for 2011-2012; schematic design approval for renovating the UAA Science building; and approval of the UAA Master Plan.

Regents will take public testimony from local residents at 10 a.m. this Thursday and Friday, Sept. 24-25, in the Glacierview Room at the University of Alaska Southeast. Anyone unable to testify in person is welcome to contact the board via sybor@alaska.edu.

The ethnobotany degree, if approved, would be delivered on the Kuskokwim Campus in Bethel. It’s intended to provide rural students with scientific training leading to entry level employment in natural and cultural resource management at local and regional offices, within both the private and public sectors. The environmental studies certificate also targets rural and Native students through the Bristol Bay Campus in Dillingham. Both programs, if approved, have funding through the U.S. Department of  Agriculture.

The degree programs in nutrition and dietetics, if approved, would build upon UAA’s health-care career education and training niche, which follows a “grow your own” strategy for the state. Alaska is the only state in the nation without a baccalaureate degree in nutrition or dietetics. As a result, institutions and agencies often must contract with professionals outside Alaska, at high expense. Funding for both programs, which each require one new full-time faculty member, would come from several sources.

The graduate certificate in construction management at UAF, if approved, would target graduate engineers or other professionals in the Alaska construction workforce. The state Department of Transportation has cited a need for advanced training for engineers and other professionals; both UAA and UAF offer associate degrees in construction management and UAA has a bachelor’s program, so the graduate certificate strengthens offerings in this area.

The undergraduate certificate in corrections would be offered through Kenai Peninsula College, at both its Soldotna and Homer campuses. The state Department of Corrections supports the program because it often must recruit from the Lower 48 for entry level positions. While UAA and UAF offer bachelor and master’s degrees in justice, there is no current program for entry level corrections personnel.

On the UAA Science Building renovation project, many programs formerly housed in the building have since moved to the new ConocoPhillips Integrated Sciences Building, which opened this fall. Some of the science programs that didn’t fit into the ConocoPhillips building will move into the old Science building, with space renovated in phases as funding becomes available. The first phase focuses on geology, with additional phases for the physics, astronomy, biology, life science and math programs. The building will remain occupied except for the one-fourth under renovation during each phase.

On tuition, UA President Mark Hamilton recommends tuition increases continue to moderate for 100- and 200-level of courses, at a proposed 5 percent for the academic year starting in fall 2011, while upper-division courses increase at a proposed 10 percent for that year. This would put tuition at $154 per credit at most UA institutions for 100- and 200-level courses and upper division courses at $187 per credit by fall 2011.

Tuition rates for the current and next academic year are already set. The regents by policy must approve tuition two years in advance, which is unique within higher education nationally. Even with the increase, if approved, UA tuition remains competitive with Western state peers. UA has started 100 new programs in the last 10 years due to employer demand, most in programs that take two years or less to complete. As a result, more than 63 percent of college-bound high school graduates in Alaska now choose UA, compared to 44 percent in the mid- to late-1990s.

Revenue sources have increased from a number of sources, not just tuition. Charitable donations to the UA Foundation, for example, reached a record $31 million in FY08. Competitive research grants earned by faculty also outperform Western peers, with roughly $150 million in research brought into the state each year.

In other business, the board will review the FY11 operating and capital budgets, but won’t vote on those budgets until the Oct. 30 meeting. The requests then go to the governor and legislature. Regents will hear presentations from the UAS campus, attend a reception at UAS and lunch with Gov. Sean Parnell. For a detailed look at the board agenda, go to www.alaska.edu/bor/ and click on “agendas.”

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For more information call Kate Ripley at 907/450-8102 or 907/388-3506.

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