University of Alaska Anchorage. Foto/Photo: Lauren Horn.
EDUCATION UAA faces $15 million cut Academic programs may be consolidated by campus BY Alyssa Wehrli
As the Regular Session of the Alaska State Legislature came to an end on May 18, there were still several unsolved issues. One was a possible $50 million cut to the University of Alaska’s (UA) budget. As Paul Reichardt, former UA Fairbanks Provost lamented, that uncertainty left the University in a difficult situation. The start of the fall semester is only a few months away, and the University needs an idea of its budget to plan for the new school year. A large cut could mean a reduction of faculty and the number of classes available to students.
With important issues on the table, the Legislature was called to a fourth special session on May 23. On the UA’s budget issue there was some good news for the University: the Legislature reduced the cut to $15 million. Changes will still need to take place within the University on account of the loss, however. As of June 2, the Strategic Pathways presentation to the Board of Regents still included a plan to “reallocate resources from programs and services” that are deemed non-essential, non-productive, or redundant.
Redundant academic programs could be reduced by concentrating certain fields in one of the three main campuses of the UA system: UA Anchorage, UA Fairbanks, and UA Southeast. Reichardt cautioned that this measure might bring unintended consequences. As he explained, UA Fairbanks and UA Southeast are situated in smaller cities, and their presence has a greater impact on the local community. For example, students in the fields of business or education can build connections within their community, benefiting both the student and the organizations with which they work. By centralizing degree programs, the University forces the students to relocate to pursue their career, breaking their connection with the community.
The University might also obtain a single accreditation for the whole UA system, which could lead to the creation of equivalent degree programs between campuses. Currently, each of the three campuses is accredited independently. For students wishing to transfer to a new campus, independent accreditation could create a problem, as previous coursework might not apply towards a similar degree in the new campus.
Several departments, such as management, athletics, and information technologies will also be reviewed to find ways to make them more cost-effective. There are still several decisions to be made over the next few months regarding the direction UA will take. The University recognizes the advantages and disadvantages of the options they are considering. And, as with any decision, there will be a degree of compromise.
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