February, 1998

The University of Alaska Board of Regents is the governing body responsible for university policy and management through the president. Regents are appointed by the governor for eight-year terms, subject to legislative confirmation. A student regent is appointed for two years from candidates nominated on each campus.

(Regents' terms of office shown in parentheses.)

Board Members:

Michael P. Kelly (1991-1999), President
R. Danforth Ogg (1993-2001), Vice President
Mary Jane Fate (1993-2001), Secretary
Chancy Croft (1995-2003), Treasurer
Elsa Demeksa (1997-2005)
Michael Burns (1997-2005)
Sharon D. Gagnon (1991-1999)
Joe L. Hayes, Jr. (1995-1997)
Joseph R. Henri (1991-1999)
Joe J. Thomas (1995-2003)
Lew M. Williams Jr. (1991-1999)

Board of Regents Office
Jeannie Phillips
202 Butrovich Bldg.
P.O. Box 755300
Fairbanks, AK 99775-5300
(907) 474-7908


Armed with public opinion survey results showing unprecedented public support for state funding of education in general and the University of Alaska in particular, regents of the system took their case for more state funding directly to the legislature on February 18-20. They also approved advertising for a new university president, met with the State Board of Education to discuss the university's schools of education and allowed next year's tuition to rise by the cost of inflation.

These matters received most of the public attention during the three-day session, but regents also dealt with academic programs and policy, approved an intellectual property management plan, okayed planning money for a fisheries project with federal agencies in Juneau, and formally approved a second sale of timber from about 450 acres in Coffman Cove on Prince of Wales Island in southeast Alaska.

The public opinion survey, done by the McDowell Group of Juneau and paid for with private contributions, shows that the University of Alaska enjoys wide support from Alaskans. Ninety-five percent of those surveyed consider the institution's programs and services at least "important" to the state and a remarkable 74 percent consider it "very important." The university also enjoys deep popular support for increased funding. Two-thirds want the university's funding increased compared to just two percent who want funding reduced. Ironically, even the majority of those few who don't rate the university as highly important to the state, support increased funding for it.

Alaska households name education in general as their leading funding priority. Seventy-nine percent, or nearly eight of ten Alaska households assign a "high" priority to education funding. Priority support for education is 27 percentage points ahead of crime issues and 29 points ahead of health and social services.

Alaskans are equally clear about where they think the university's funding emphasis should be. Educational programs and vocational training for good jobs and research that helps build the state's economy, are the public's clear priorities for the University of Alaska. Next on the list is improvement in the quality and scope of academic and technical offerings. Economics and academics are priorities over community social support and capital projects such as student housing.

Regents shared the results of the survey with legislators at an early morning breakfast on Thursday, Feb. 19. Twenty-five legislators and at least 20 legislative aides met with the regents for two hours. In addition, the regents divided themselves into teams for approximately 30 individual meetings with legislators over the three-day period.

Legislators, facing plummeting oil prices that have sent state revenues into a downward spiral, were not very encouraging about anything more than flat funding for the university, but regents warily came up with at least one possible solution to the funding quandary. On a 5-4 vote, the Board of Regents passed a resolution asking the legislature to reallocate enough of the surplus earnings of the Permanent Fund to fully fund their operating budget request for $171 million for FY99, a $7 million increase over state funding received in FY98, and for funds to address some of the deferred maintenance needs of the university and other state agencies.

The surplus earnings of the Permanent Fund are those funds that remain after the permanent fund pays dividends and is inflation-proofed. This year alone, those surplus earnings total $900 million. In the past, legislators have put the surplus earnings back into the permanent fund even though there is no legal requirement to do so.

After considerable discussion, regents decided to allow tuition to rise for next year by the cost of inflation, about three percent, or about $2 per credit hour. Assuming constant enrollment levels, the hike will boost the university's tuition income from $39.6 million in Academic Year 98 to $40.7 million in AY99. The new tuition rates will become effective this summer.

In other action, regents:

Approved the continuation of the associate of applied science degree program in health information management at the University of Alaska Southeast. This program was implemented in October 1992, and the associate degree was approved in February 1993 as the university's first statewide distance delivered program. To date, the program has graduated 25 students, 21 of whom are employed today in the health information management field. Since 1993, another 300 non-degreee students have taken program courses. Early in 1995, the program was selected by the Western Interstate Consortium on Higher Education (WICHE) as one of the model programs to be marketed to other consortium member universities. The program is distance delivered to students throughout Alaska and in California, Washington, Wyoming and New Mexico.
Endorsed the report and recommendations of the Professional Education Coordinating Committee to create a strong statewide program for teacher and school administrator education.
Authorized a public information program on behalf of the University of Alaska at a cost not to exceed $200,000 to be paid from private funds. The program will involve faculty, staff, students and alumni of the university, as well as regents and university officials.

FUTURE BOARD MEETINGS

April 16-17, 1998 Juneau
June 18-19, 1998 Fairbanks