July 16, 2019

The UA Board of Regents met yesterday, July 15, to discuss a declaration of financial exigency and possible options that President Johnsen has outlined for the university structure (see pages 28-40 in the presentation PDF).

The BOR voted to delay any action on financial exigency and approval of university structure until its meeting Tuesday, July 30. The board also voted to approve a meeting next Monday, July 22, when they will discuss the options President Johnsen outlined at the meeting for how the university can be organized to provide programs and services after a major budget cut from the state. The options were as follows:

1. Fewer universities and campuses
  • Eliminate one or more universities and/or community campuses
2. Current UA, lead campus
  • Distribute an unrestricted general fund reduction proportionately to each university and statewide, with each unit to reduce into its unique “core” as described in Strategic Pathways
3. New UA
  • Single accreditation with shared courses and services
  • Designed to “fit” our enrollment and budget
  • Delivers education through a single “college” for each major field serving the state
The University of Alaska budget reduction target is currently $136, million which came from the following areas:
  • Legislative session reduction — $5 million
  • Gov. Dunleavy legislative budget veto
    • UA budget — $130 million
    • UA debt service (UAA and UAS) — $1.2 million
There remains a legislative process to add funding to the university through a special appropriation. The amount of funding, the timing of when we receive it, and whether it is recurring or one-time are undecided at this time. This was cited as one of the reasons for the BOR’s desire to wait on a vote of financial exigency.

During the BOR meeting, one regent recommended the universities look at the physical assets each has available and how some of them might be monetized during this time of change. At UAF, we began this approach six months ago, which I referred to at the time as “vertical repositioning.” We will continue to look at options, including outsourcing some operations and sales of facilities and land. And although athletics was mentioned as a luxury by a regent, I have heard many compelling stories about what UAF athletics has meant to people and why it is important to UAF and the Fairbanks community.

The UAF governance groups have asked to have an “all hands on deck” meeting later this week to discuss the current status of the budget and scenarios moving forward. Jeannie Phillips, my assistant, will be working with Faculty Senate President Sine Anahita and the other governance leaders to find a time when all of the Core Cabinet can attend. Thank you to Dr. Anahita for her leadership in suggesting the town hall-style meeting.

On another note, starting late last week I became aware that some agencies are expressing reticence about funding grant proposals in UA’s budget climate. I have since solicited a list of agency heads and program managers from researchers. Later today I will send over 100 personal letters to program managers at federal, state and private funding agencies restating our commitment to research at UAF and our continued effort to make it a strategic priority. As a leader in Arctic research, it is imperative that we continue to be a research-intensive university serving the needs of our state, nation and the international community.

This week, the House Finance Committee will hear public testimony on the HB2001 appropriation. This hearing will allow public comments to be directed at all of UA’s issues, including the budget and loss of funding for the Alaska Performance Scholarship, Alaska Education Grant and WWAMI programs due to the Higher Education Investment Fund sweep. You can testify in person or send your written testimony to the House Finance Committee via Public testimony is limited to two minutes each. You can sign up through your local Legislative Information Office.

Tuesday, 2-7 p.m.
Mat-Su Legislative Information Office, 600 E. Railroad Ave., Suite 1, Wasilla

Wednesday, 2-7 p.m.
Fairbanks Legislative Information Office, 1292 Sadler Way, Suite 308

Thursday, 2-7 p.m.
State Capitol, Room 519, Juneau

Thank you to everyone for your dedication and commitment, I appreciate all the work you continue to do to make UAF great!

— Dan White, chancellor
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