Budget update: June 3, 2020

June 3, 2020

Tori Tragis

— by Dan White, chancellor

Tomorrow and Friday, the UA Board of Regents will be meeting and making decisions that will impact the university system. Agenda items include discussion about the UA transformation options, FY22 budget, tuition setting in FY22-23, bond refinancing and restructure, and decisions on expedited academic program review. I encourage you to watch the meeting via livestream and stay informed.

There are many moving parts and continuing uncertainty when it comes to our budget. What we know today can change as the BOR reviews options, including academic, administrative and structural. Additionally, the BOR continues to evaluate parameters regarding how state undesignated funds are distributed and ways in which these funds can be spent across the system. However, as the budget landscape evolves, so do we. It is because of anticipated changes that last week I adjusted my earlier budget target to vice chancellors from 15% to 12.5%. It is also why I’ve asked vice chancellors to identify areas of greatest ROI for potential year-end investments should any one-time funding be available at the end of the year. 

I know that everyone from vice chancellors to individual faculty and staff have been working hard to create efficiencies where we can, reduce expenses, and tap one-time funds and strategic reserves to bridge gaps where it’s needed the most. Although not enough, we have received some federal funding to offset expenses incurred by COVID-19 and we will continue to seek additional assistance. 

I think the important message here is that your leaders are working hard to establish budget certainty. I know that we all want certainty so we can get to planning. We will continue to strive for stability but please understand that as major changes occur in the UA system, we will continue to adjust. I thank you for your understanding.

We continue to look at revenue generating models and how we can keep costs down while at the same time continue to deliver quality academics and services that our students, employees and communities expect from a world-class university. The Task Force on Outward-Facing Activities is reviewing outreach activities and will be looking at new revenue models, in particular. 

It is not just outreach where we are looking at new business models. Departments across UAF are looking at their business models and how to resume operations safely as we prepare for the fall semester. In particular, the University of Alaska Press will temporarily reduce their staffing and services beginning July 1 to focus on reenvisioning a new model for the press. I want to thank all those who have served and continue to serve the press. A university press is a key part of a research university, and I look forward to seeing their recommendations.

It is because of all of you that I am confident we will successfully navigate the decisions that come out of the BOR meeting this week and in the months ahead. I thank you for your continued feedback, public testimony and passion for UAF. I was asked this week to write a letter to the board of one of the foundations that has had unwavering support for UAF. The letter is meant to assure the board that UAF is a solid investment and that their current and future funding to UAF is their best investment. I will have no reservations about writing this letter because I believe it. I believe in you and UAF, and I believe in our future.

Thanks for choosing UAF.