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BOR Juneau Meeting

Nicole Carvajal, ASUAF President, and Peter Finn, spokesperson for the Coalition of Student Leaders, address the Board of Regents about tuition. Photo by Kate Ripley

Tuition a hot topic at BOR meeting

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

The University of Alaska Board of Regents recently decided to maintain the original amount for 2011-2012 tuition, without an additional increase, and delayed action on the 2012-2013 rate until November. The board met Sept. 23-24 in Juneau.

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, among other recommendations, a 7 percent increase. The issue will now come before the board at the Nov. 9 meeting.

UA President Pat Gamble complimented the Coalition of Student Leaders on an organized, articulate counter proposal. Still, 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 noted. “When we squeeze this balloon here, it’s 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.

The regents also approved a resolution 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 UA 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.

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