Public Affairs

December 01, 2009

UA Board of Regents Calls for More Financial Aid

For Immediate Release
Dec. 1, 2009

ANCHORAGE--The University of Alaska Board of Regents wrapped up its two-day meeting on the Anchorage campus today by approving two resolutions supporting access to postsecondary education.

One supports legislation introduced in the state Legislature last year by Sen. Johnny Ellis and Rep. David Guttenberg to establish the Alaska Achievers Incentive Scholarship for needs-based financial aid; and the other supports the Governor’s Performance Scholarship, based on rigorous course work and good grades in high school.

The issue was brought forward by Regent Ashton Compton, the student representative on the 11-member board. “I think it’s important that the board go on record that we support enhanced access to postsecondary education, workforce training and lifelong learning for Alaska students,” Compton said.

The board also adopted operating and capital budgets for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2010. The budgets include a $351.2 million request in state funds for day-to-day operations of the 15-campus system. That money would be matched by $514.5 million in UA-generated revenue for a total budget of $865.7 million. The operating budget places an emphasis on energy; science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); climate research; high-demand programs in teacher education, health, workforce programs and engineering; and student success initiatives aimed at improving retention and graduation rates. It also includes a 50-cent hike in student wages across the system.

Regents delayed an October budget vote in favor of giving more time to meet with Gov. Sean Parnell and his staff.  The governor does not introduce his budget until later this month, however, and regents don’t meet again until February so had to adopt the budget requests now.  Several meetings with either the governor or his staff were productive.

Regents pared down the capital request this year, opting for a $199.3 million request that includes funding mostly for maintenance ($37.5 million). Regents elected to include just one new construction project, the Life Sciences facility on the Fairbanks campus. The $88 million in state funding for the classroom and lab building would be matched by $20.6 million in university issued revenue bonds.  The project has been on the regents’ capital request list in one form or another for 10 years.

Construction of the Life Sciences facility will enhance the university’s competitive research position as well as replace aging labs and classrooms. The UAF biology program is one of the largest research programs in the United  States. It includes research in infectious diseases, virology, microbiology, toxicology, cellular mechanisms of disease, food safety and physiology; and academic programs in biology, botany, wildlife biology, wildlife management, zoology, biological chemistry and molecular biology.

Regents formed a working group on the proposed UAA sports arena to address questions about the arena’s proposed location, design, seating capacity, traffic impacts and potential funding sources. The project isn’t included in the regents’ FY11 capital request because of other longstanding needs, but is still important, regents said. A working group will help the university better plan for the project and move it forward, regents agreed.

About 10 Anchorage residents and athletics boosters urged regents to include the sports arena in their request for the coming year. Regents recognized their concerns, but want more time to ensure the project is done correctly.

“The university system has many needs across the state, and we can’t fund everything in one year. It’s our job to set priorities,” said Regent Carl Marrs of Anchorage. “As much as we would like to fund all these projects, such as a sports arena at UAA or new dorms at UAF, we have to make these tough decisions.”

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For information, contact Kate Ripley at 907/388-3506 or klripley@alaska.edu.

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