Regents gave University of Alaska President Mark R. Hamilton a solid thumbs up on his preliminary budget proposal, a plan to seek an additional $16.3 million for the university's operating budget for each of the next three fiscal years, designed, as he put it, "to get the university back on track."
Under the terms of Hamilton's proposal which will come back in more detail for consideration by the regents in November, the university's operating budget would be based on the 1996 base budget, adjusted for inflation plus an additional 1 percent each year to cover expansion and enhancement of university programs and services.
"We can always debate whether to ask for what we need or to ask for what we think we can get," Hamilton told the regents. "I think we should go for what we need."
In developing this proposal, the president reiterated that this year's $169 million base budget has remained constant for over a decade. The decision to adjust only to the FY96 level represents a relatively conservative approach.
Hamilton's budget plan also seeks about $222 million over five years for campus capital projects, facilities renewal and replacement to avoid further deferred maintenance buildup and to keep pace with technology. In addition, the university would seek $141 million to eliminate the system's backlog of deferred maintenance/code compliance problems.
University tuition rates for FY2000 were discussed, and regents approved an administration recommendation to take no action on tuition until February 1999.
Concerned about recent enrollment declines at the university, President Hamilton told the regents he was working on a proposal to proceed with a scholarship program which would award 4-year tuition scholarships to the top 10 percent of Alaska's high school seniors. Governor Tony Knowles proposed a similar program last year but the legislature did not act on it.
"The university could fund the program up front with funds from the UA land grant trust fund," Hamilton said, "and it would be a bold way to launch the university's vigorous new recruitment drive." Hamilton believes the legislators may be inclined to fund the program when they discover the benefits of keeping Alaska's students in state. "Over half the students who leave Alaska to attend college never return," said Hamilton. "Alaska can't afford a drain of resources of this magnitude."
Hamilton said he would work out the details of such a plan, and the regents could consider it at a special meeting before the end of October.
Officials of UAA briefed the regents on a memorandum of understanding entered into by UAA, Providence Alaska Medical Center, the state Department of Health and Human Services and the Alaska Mental Health Trust to pursue opportunities for integrated planning for the institutions and associated programs that currently share Anchorage's Providence Drive neighborhood with UAA.
Regents approved the use of $80,000 in proceeds from the sale of a property easement for parking improvements and planning and design of remodeling projects for the UAS Ketchikan Technical Center. Policy provides that proceeds from such easement sales be deposited into the university's land-grant endowment fund, but regents decided to earmark the $80,000 for the Center in consideration of the financial support the Ketchikan campus receives from the Ketchikan community.
In other actions, the board authorized the sale of the Homer Red Meat Facility, and directed the administration to proceed with the sale. . . passed a resolution of appreciation for members of the University of Alaska Heating Corporation . . . heard presentations from the College of Rural Alaska Advisory Council, and from the Statewide Vocational-Technical Education Advisory Council. . .received a report from the UAF College of Science, Engineering and Mathematics and School of Mineral Engineering and the UAA School of Engineering on accreditation reviews with which they anticipate no difficulties . . . met with the board of directors of the Alaska Science and Technology Foundation, and also talked with Shirley Holloway, Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Education, and with Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer.