UA system makes major changes to academics, administration

    The University of Alaska campus in Anchorage.

    Anchorage, Alaska (KINY) - The University of Alaska Board of Regents has approved changes to academic programs and major cuts to administration.

    The University of Alaska Board of Regents dedicated the second day of its two-day meeting to addressing budget challenges faced by the UA system and transformational change, including voting to reduce academic programs, approving administrative cuts, restructuring debt and funding scholarships from the Natural Resources Fund.

    The university’s budget has been impacted by a number of factors, most notably state funding cuts since 2015, enrollment decline since 2011, and the fiscal impact of COVID-19. In response, UA will not pay $6.5 million in planned pay raises, will institute pay cuts for 166 executives through mandatory furloughs, and cut millions in systemwide administrative costs.

    Of the $33 million in FY21 budget reductions, more than $4 million is in academics program reductions and $29 million is in administration and other areas.

    Regents recognized that significant reductions also have been made to university expenses since FY14. Between FY14 and FY20 general fund budgets have been reduced at, UAA by 19.4 percent, UAF by 18.3 percent, UAS by 23.3 percent and Statewide by 29.8 percent. Those reductions have already resulted in an employee headcount reduction of more than 1,700 employees.

    The board honored and passed resolutions for three retiring executives -- UAS Chancellor Emeritus Rick Caulfield, UA Foundation President Susan Foley and General Counsel Emeritus Michael Hostina -- and celebrated three staff members for excellence in student support-- a highlight of today’s meeting.

    On academic programs, the board voted to reduce, discontinue, rename or merge 45 academic programs, and agreed to postpone action on two programs -- the Masters of Science and Doctorate of Philosophy in Atmospheric Science at the University of Alaska Fairbanks -- for consideration in January.

    The board also approved the establishment of two new academic programs; the Interdisciplinary Bachelor of Arts at University of Alaska Southeast and the Undergraduate Certificate in Local Knowledge Educator at University of Alaska Fairbanks.

    The eliminated programs will impact almost 700 students, 30 faculty and staff, and save close to $4 million. To fulfill the university’s commitment to students and to meet accreditation requirements, each affected student will work with faculty and staff to design an individualized multi-year “teach-out” plan for completing their academic program.

    Regent Karen Perdue, who chairs the committee that oversaw the academic review process, said: “The choices are difficult. Hard questions have been asked and refinements have been made. This represents the largest number of program reductions completed by UA in recent memory. It reflects the tough financial times we are in.”

    Regents heard a report from Chief IT Officer Mark Kondrak on Enterprise Digital Transformation an initiative focused on improved student experience, operational agility and efficiency, workforce productivity  through digital technology and data-driven systems and processes.

    Mary Gower, Chief Equity and Compliance Officer, updated the board on recent, major developments in the rules adopted by the federal government that universities use to comply with Title IX of the Civil Rights Act.


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