Budget update: April 3

April 3, 2019

Tori Tragis

— by Dan White, chancellor

President Johnsen will provide updates and discuss his budget strategy on Monday, April 8, at the Board of Regents’ special meeting. The president’s presentation will also cover possible changes for the Alaska College of Education and the roles of UAF, UAA and UAS in the college. The BOR meeting can be viewed through board docs (https://alaska.edu/bor/agendas/) on the Board of Regents’ website.

Although some hope for a better budget was provided by the House Finance Subcommittee on the University of Alaska, we still have a long road ahead. The House Finance Committee should vote on recommendations by the subcommittee later this week or early next. Once the House approves their budget, the Senate will get their opportunity to craft theirs. That should occur in the two weeks that follow. If there are differences between the House and Senate budgets, they will then meet in conference committees to arrive at a final budget to submit to the governor.

As for planning, we continue to look at near- and midterm savings through repositioning physical facilities. Given the magnitude of the budget uncertainty and the possibility of organizational changes, however, we are awaiting further direction from President Johnsen and the Board of Regents for detailed budget planning. There will be more to come on this discussion after next week’s BOR meeting.

To get the word out on the importance of UAF, I have been meeting with local and statewide leaders, influencers and organizations. Of emphasis in these meetings has been the importance of UAF to our community, state and nation and how the budget might affect our future. Among the groups I have recently met with or will meet with shortly are the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner editorial board, the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, the Chamber of Commerce general membership, the Fairbanks Economic Development Corp. Board of Directors, Fairbanks Kiwanis, the Alaska Miners Association and local Rotary groups.

In addition, I hope you caught my community perspective in last Friday’s Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. I ask you to join me in our continued efforts to advocate for UAF and higher education in Alaska.

Many of you have heard me mention or have read about the “Box of Big Ideas” on the chancellor’s website. I have received over 60 entries and want to thank everyone for all of your submissions so far. Your ideas have been big and small, and have ranged from facility suggestions to the structure of administration and processes improvement. We have even received submissions acknowledging the areas already under review. Your continued engagement and assistance in this process is appreciated.

I want to share some of the ideas received and encourage you to keep them coming. I try to review them weekly, and they have helped guide our leadership conversations as we position UAF for the future.

BIG Ideas:

  1. We live in such a unique location with lots of tourism, it would be amazing if we could partner with a private sector to advance their mission and bring in new revenue for UAF. Denver's Metropolitan State University partnered with Sage Hospitality to open a Springhill Suites hotel on campus. In the first four years this partnership generated about $1.9 million net profit. The hotel is run partly as a teaching hotel. How cool would that be to have an opportunity to build revenue but also allow students hands-on experience in the workplace? You could have SOM students getting work experience in their specific field of education. We need to take advantage of local industries; we have really cool research happening. It would be great to monopolize on tourism excursions (such as partnering with Poker Flat Research Range for tours to bring in revenue). This is not the big lottery winner ticket to save the whole budget, but it is a good start at thinking outside of the box and starting to build our future instead of being heavily dependent on the state.

  2. Encourage and develop a mentoring plan for staff members. Many early career staff members can greatly benefit from being linked up with a mentor in a more senior position outside of our direct leadership. This would provide opportunity for job shadowing, professional development and exposure to other jobs and career opportunities at UAF. Some positions can remain unfilled for months — and in some cases over a year — due to the lack of expertise.

  3. I suggest going back to two-year catalog cycles and issue addenda if major changes are necessary. There is a huge amount of work involved in reviewing and updating the catalog, not to mention coding DegreeWorks every year for all of the degrees. Moreover, the catalog as it stands now is rarely published before August which means students aren't able to plan as well as they might otherwise. Perhaps a two-year cycle would allow us to get it out around April or May giving students a much better idea of what their degree requirements look like for the degree they are pursuing with enough time to register accordingly.

  4. Deer yard: I recommend that if the deer yard becomes a field gear storage facility, then the units be allowed to purchase Conex structures for a one-time fee, then have zero or very low space rental charge, if necessary. Currently it is the rental fee rather than the location that makes Aurora challenging for our unit.

Thank you again to everyone for your continued support and for sharing your “BIG Ideas” for UAF.