June 3, 2022
For Immediate Release
June 3, 2022
University of Alaska FY23 budget focuses on students, affordable education and key economic initiatives
During its first in-person meeting in more than two years, the University of Alaska Board of Regents adopted a FY23 spending plan that aligns with the university’s key goals, funds student scholarships and high-quality education programs, improves student-facing IT systems, supports key economic growth initiatives including Arctic research, and increases capacity for high-demand workforce and career training.
"We appreciate the strong working relationship with the Governor on advancing priorities including critical minerals, alternative energy, mariculture and drones," said UA President Pat Pitney.
The board also approved capital projects that utilize private gifts, corporate donations, federal funding, or other sponsored agency support, including the schematic design of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Troth Yeddha’ Indigenous Studies Center and Park. Also receiving formal project approval was the University of Alaska Fairbanks Rasmuson Library Student Success Center and approval of the University of Alaska Southeast Campus Master Plan.
“This budget signals to Alaskans that the University of Alaska system is a critical partner in the state’s economic wellbeing,” Pitney said. “Our budget aligns with Alaska’s economic growth in a number of key areas including emerging industries while strengthening the student experience and supporting workforce development.”
The university system’s FY23 base operating budget of $291 million, as approved by the Legislature, includes a modest 6.7% increase in Unrestricted General Fund over the current operating budget. The budget will now be transmitted to the governor. Of the base increase, $9.9 million is for fixed cost increases including insurance premiums, IT security and higher utility costs, and for a 2% compensation increase for non-represented staff, local 6070 (crafts & trades) and firefighters. Over the past five years, university employees have only received a single 1% compensation increase.
The budget distributions reflect investments in the university’s five key goals:
- Contribute to Alaska’s economic development, skilled workforce and engaged citizenship
- Foster academic excellence for student success
- Grow our world-class research
- Operate cost effectively
- Promote diversity, equity and inclusion in students, faculty and staff
“These goals help us focus our efforts on the areas most critical to our students and our state. The key to attaining these goals are our eight priority focus areas that guide and shape investments over the coming years,” Pitney said. “These priority focus areas are drilled down throughout our institutions, and individual faculty and staff are contributing. I really appreciate that.”
Budget provides for student success:
- $3.1 million from the Natural Resources Fund to support the UA Scholars program providing for a 4-year, $12,000 per-student scholarship for Alaska students in the top 10% of their high school class
- $20 million [in the capital budget] for the modernization of student IT systems. This one-time investment will allow UA to transition to a cloud-based, modern student information system and improve the online experience - from course registration to fee payment - for all university students. The IT upgrade will happen over the next 2-3 years.
- $23 million [capital budget] for replacing 50-year-old sanitation infrastructure at UAF’s Moore/Bartlett student housing; and,
- $27 million [capital budget] in other deferred maintenance funding for heating, safety and mechanical system improvements at multiple UAA facilities, a roof and fuel tank replacement at UAS, and repairs and renovations across the system.
“The UA Scholars program is key to attracting top Alaskan students from across the state,” Pitney said. “Together with the state scholarship and grant programs funded by the recently recapitalized Higher Education Investment Fund, we are making college attainable for Alaskans from every background and community,” Pitney said. “Making college affordable for more Alaskans helps us to increase enrollment and provide a trained workforce.”
Budget provides support for key programs:
- $3.5 million to hire more health program faculty critical for producing more Alaska-trained health professionals;
- $2 million for alternative energy research;
- $1 million each for student support in teacher education practicums and health clinicals;
- $635,900 for Alaska Library Network and Imagination Library support;
- $200,000 for Alaska Area Health Education Centers;
- $100,000 increase to mental health trust funding;
- $72,300 for technical vocational education program funds; and increased authorization to receive federal funding for research; and,
- $300,000 in the Natural Resources Fund to support an Arctic initiative. The core product will be a report of Arctic socio-economic and environmental trends focused on state legislative priorities and activities. The useful information will be available to the public.
“The critical work taking place in these fields will provide Alaska with the cutting edge technology and advancement necessary to operate more efficiently into the future,” Pitney said. “The research and training happening across the state in these fields will benefit Alaska in countless ways, including economic stability.”
Budget funds economic development initiatives:
The operating budget contains one-time funding for research and development critical for Alaska’s economic recovery and was possible because of federal recovery funds for the state. These are areas in which the university has a deep base of expertise and the state has identified as priorities including:
- $10 million for drone programs to secure beyond line of sight and industry development;
- $7.8 million for important critical mineral and rare earth element research;
- $5 million for heavy oil recovery research and development;
- $250,000 for health program equipment; and,
- $7 million to support mariculture research, industry support and workforce development.
“We remain focused on delivering high-value programs to meet Alaska’s workforce needs and to partner with the state on economic recovery,” Pitney said. “Alaska has great potential to expand industry sectors in large-scale mariculture, environmentally-sound rare earth mineral extraction, alternative energy, and in drone advancement and technology. Expanding our health care programs also is essential.”
On Friday, regents discussed the UA system’s role in alternative and renewable energy research. The “Did You Know” video presentation highlighted efforts underway to address energy security, research being conducted across the state including investigating the feasibility of solar, hydrokinetic, micronuclear, and other renewable sources of power throughout Alaska, and what it could mean for Alaska and the university to provide domestic energy security for our state and the rest of the country.
More information on the ongoing ‘Did You Know’ spotlight series, designed to highlight university excellence and points of pride through storytelling and data, can be found here.
The University of Alaska Board of Regents is an 11-member volunteer board, appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Alaska State Legislature. Members serve an 8-year term, with the exception of the student regent who is nominated from his/her campus and serves a 2-year term. The board was established through the Alaska Constitution and is responsible for University of Alaska policy and management through the university president.
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