UA Board of Regents approves FY19 budget requests with emphasis on strategic investments, approves tuition increases
Acknowledging the University of Alaska’s important role in building the state’s economy and future workforce, the University of Alaska Board of Regents approved an FY19 operating budget that includes funding for a range of key strategic investments and tuition increases for academic years (AY) 2019 and 2020 at its meeting this week in Anchorage.
The approved budget includes a state operating budget request of $341 million in unrestricted general funds (UGF). The request is $24 million more than the university received in FY18. “In every state that is economically competitive, education comes first, and this is true for every nation around the world. So for us to develop our economy, education must come first,” said UA President Jim Johnsen.
Additional funding would be invested strategically to increase science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs, teacher and health care education programs, invention disclosures, research expenditures and enrollment and degree completion rates. Regents also approved a state capital budget request of $50 million UGF for deferred maintenance and renewal and repurposing of the university’s facilities, as well as the university’s 10-year capital improvement plan.
In presenting the budget request, Johnsen said the university has seen a 16 percent cut in state UGF appropriations since FY14, a cumulative cut of $145 million, while still experiencing fixed cost increases. The cuts have led to a reduction of 1,183 employees and other significant impacts. “Employees are wearing two and three hats, and that’s very challenging, no question about that,” said Johnsen.
“We’ve done our best to minimize the impact on students, but the reality is that our staff are taking on additional assignments and we’ve had to make tough decisions about our priorities. Strategic Pathways has facilitated the conversation about those priorities, and we’ve had to make adjustments. We have concerns about pushing our staff to take on additional responsibilities,” said University of Alaska Southeast Chancellor Rick Caulfield.
In light of the difficult budget situation, Johnsen pointed out that the FY19 budget does not include compensation increases for employees. Johnsen announced that he plans to initiate a compensation equity study to compare salary and benefits to the external market and then also compare internally on metrics such as years of service, race, gender and specific disciplines.
The board approved the tuition increases by a vote of 9-1, allowing the university to raise tuition across all UA campuses by 5 percent in AY19 and again in AY20. Kodiak College and Prince William Sound College will see increases of 10 percent in AY19 and 9.5 percent in AY20 in order to bring their tuition rates to parity with the other campuses. The tuition plan also includes a 25 percent discount for occupational endorsement and certificate programs, a step aimed at aiding students looking to quickly move into the workforce or gain a promotion.
“The students are the ones we’re most accountable to, in my view. There’s a heavy responsibility we all bear at UA for this [tuition] adjustment,” Johnsen said.
Student Regent Joey Sweet spoke similarly about the tuition increases saying that planning ahead for such increases gives students the opportunity to prepare. “Although it’s a bitter pill to swallow, what I feel is best for this institution in the long term is to support this increase. I’m not thrilled about that, but in the long term I think it’s the best course of action for us to take,” he said.
The board also heard an update on the UA Foundation, which has seen total asset growth of 13.5 percent over the last fiscal year. The Foundation’s Consolidated Endowment Fund investments are returning at a rate of 14.3 percent, ranking higher than peer average. UA Foundation President Susan Foley also highlighted a generous $157,500 donation from the Ted Stevens Foundation to support the newly-named Senator Ted Stevens Legislative Internship Program for the next five years. The program sends UA students to Juneau during the legislative session to gain first-hand experience in legislative offices.
In other action, regents re-elected their current board officers. Chair Gloria O’Neill, Vice Chair John Davies, Secretary Lisa Parker, and Treasurer Deena Bishop will all serve another term. Regents also heard an update on the university’s Title IX compliance progress and were notified that 15,413 students and 6,700 employees have completed mandatory Title IX training. The board also approved a sale of University of Alaska Anchorage property, selection of an external auditing firm, and a resolution of appreciation for retiring Associate Vice President for Finance James F. Lynch.
Despite challenges, regents and Johnsen expressed optimism about the university’s future. “It’s a difficult time, dealing with the downfall in our state’s economy,” said Regent Sheri Buretta. “I feel like when these things happen, people step up and they do better and we’ll get through it as a community. There’ll be some challenges, but by working together and making these hard decisions we are paving the way for that future.”
“It’s an honor to have the responsibility of educating the state’s future. Hard times are ahead, but I look forward to the challenge,” said Johnsen.
All Board of Regents meeting agendas and documents are available at http://www.alaska.edu/bor/agendas/.