Regents' Recap

September 2010

UA Regents keep original 2012 tuition increase, delay action on 2013

Photo by Kate Ripley, University of Alaska.

JUNEAU—The University of Alaska Board of Regents decided to maintain the original amount for 2011-2012 tuition, without an additional increase, and delayed action on the 2012-2013 rate.

The originally approved rate for 2011-2012 was a 5 percent increase for 100-200 level courses and a 10 percent increase for 300-400 level courses. Graduate tuition would not increase. That original board action was taken in September 2009 and will remain in effect.

Per UA policy last April, former UA President Mark Hamilton, with the support of the three chancellors, put forward a proposal to increase the 100-200 course rate by an additional 5 percent, resulting in a 10 percent increase for all levels except graduate. While board policy allows the board to revise previously approved rates, many board members were reluctant to do so.

“We made a deal last year.  I think that’s a deal we need to honor,” said Regent Erik Drygas of Fairbanks.

The board also decided to delay action on rates for the 2012-2013 year, opting instead to have the administration review several options and consider their budgetary ramifications. The issue will now come before the board at a future meeting. Meanwhile, Associate Vice President Saichi Oba is organizing, per President Pat Gamble's direction, an advisory task force with student representation to consider tuition options and make a recommendation.

At the September meeting, President Gamble complimented the Coalition of Student Leaders on an organized and articulate counter proposal of 7 percent for 2012-2013. The coalition also urged the board not to go back and increase the previously approved rate for 2011-2012.  Gamble noted budget adjustments will be required as a result of the regents’ decision. The revenue difference between the original rate for 2011-2012 and the proposal the board rejected is $2.5 million.

“There is no free lunch,” Gamble said. “When we squeeze this balloon here, it expands the dollar shortfall to be made up elsewhere in our system.”

It’s not known yet where those budget adjustments will occur. All of UA’s labor contracts expire in December, and other fixed obligations, such as retirement and health care, have continued to increase--in some cases by double digits--despite cost-containment efforts.

Tuition revenue makes up roughly 11 percent of the university’s overall budget, which includes a mix of state and federal funds as well. State general funds make up about 45 percent of the UA System’s overall budget; however, the Alaska Legislature has indicated the university must begin relying less on the state treasury.

UA tuition is low (44th of the 50 states) in comparison to four-year colleges and universities in the Lower 48. However, tuition for UA's community campuses is relatively high compared to tuition at community colleges Outside. That's because in Alaska, the community colleges are part of the overall UA System due to budgetary and political decisions made during a reorganization in the mid-1980s. Many of UA's community campuses also provide four-year degree programs, and link directly into the larger hub campuses, unlike community colleges elsewhere.  There are other differences as well. For instance, most community colleges in the Lower 48 receive subsidies from their local governments. Only two of UA's community campuses receive such additional support. 

In other news, the board also approved a motion supporting the new Alaska Career and Technical Education Plan, a multi-agency plan that aligns goals and programs offered by UA and the state departments of Labor and Education.  Education Commissioner Larry LeDoux called the collaboration an “unprecedented partnership” between the three agencies.

Board members also heard an overview of a recent McDowell Group study on the social and economic impacts of the system’s 13 community campuses across the state. The campuses serve roughly 13,000 students from Ketchikan to Kotzebue. McDowell estimates the total economic impact of these campuses, many off the road system, at $121 million, including both direct and indirect impacts. The study reviewed both qualitative and quantitative impacts.

In other business, the board took the following action on several UA campus projects, including:

--Approval of schematic design for the fourth phase of the ongoing renovation of UAF’s Community and Technical College, formerly the old Fairbanks court building downtown. The fourth phase, at $4.8 million, will renovate a significant portion of the building’s third floor.

--Approval of schematic design for the second phase of UAA’s Science Building renovation, at $6 million. The building, originally constructed in 1975, was partially vacated with the opening of the new ConocoPhillips Integrated Science Building last year. The first phase is currently under way to renovate a portion of the first floor to accommodate geology instructional labs. This next phase will renovate the remainder of the first floor, providing a number of different labs and instructional space for UAA students.

The board enjoyed a presentation led by UAS Chancellor John Pugh on numerous academic and research programs; lunched with the advisory council for the Juneau campus; and attended a reception at the Egan building hosted by UAS.

Warm moment

Photo by Klas Stolpe, Juneau Empire, and used with permission.

Tlingit elder Marie Olson spoke against the tuition increases, but praised the quality of education available at UAS. Here, Olson gives UAS Chancellor John Pugh a hug.

Coalition presents case

Photo by Kate Ripley, University of Alaska.

From left, Nicole Carvajal, president of the Associated Students of UAF, and Peter Finn, speaker for the Coalition of Student Leaders and a senator for the Union of Students of UAA, address the board during a special presentation provided to student government leaders. Carvajal and Finn, along with other student leaders, urged the board to stick with previously approved rate increases for 2011-2012. They also recommended a 7 percent increase for 2012-2013. The board agreed with them for the first year and delayed action on the second year.  

UA -- training Alaska's workforce

Photo by Kate Ripley, University of Alaska.

At left, Meg Day, of Coeur Alaska, the operator of the Kensington Gold Mine north of Juneau, and David Stone (center), deputy commissioner of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, explain to the board the importance of the university's mine training program to employers such as Coeur, which opened up the Kensington this past June. To Stone's right is Steven Krause, the new dean of professional and technical studies at UAS.  Dean Krause noted that the university's mining students who graduated last May were all hired for mining jobs, all starting with annual salaries of $83,000 each. "That means $996,000 of new money that entered the economy to generate new wealth," Krause said. "If you look at the last three classes, the figure jumps to $2.6 million a year."

Meeting wraps up

Photo by Kate Ripley, University of Alaska.

Cynthia Henry, chair of the board, makes a point during the two-day September meeting at UAS, which featured a packed agenda including a brief video-conferenced meeting with Gov. Sean Parnell. To Henry's left is Regent Tim Brady and to her right, UA President Pat Gamble.

Next scheduled regent meeting is ...

November 9, 2010

December 9-10, 2010