Budget update: Sept. 25

September 25, 2019

Tori Tragis

— by Dan White, chancellor

Today’s budget message is the first in a long time with some certainty about the budget and its distribution. Before I get into that, however, let me first congratulate the women’s volleyball team for their victory over the UAA Seawolves last night in front of a packed house at the Patty Center. As a celebration of the second set victory, Nook and the UAF Honors College sprinted around the court leading the boisterous crowd in the wave. 

Joining the Honors College in supporting our team were the athletes from UAF’s 9 other sports teams (many in volleyball jerseys) as well as faculty, staff, administrators and a wide swath of the community. In addition to the UAF athletes, the West Valley volleyball coach and team members attended along with the Monroe High School varsity and JV teams. The victory left a very positive and powerful impression on the many young people who we hope to welcome in the future as Nanooks.

Let me also take this opportunity to thank all of the UAF police, fire, student affairs, and student government staff and membership for a safe and successful Starvation Gulch celebration. Although it was an event geared toward UAF students, it brought in friends from the community, high schools, and from the military. Thank you for this ongoing tradition that brings together past, current, and future Nanooks!

Now on to the budget. The FY20 budget distribution has been confirmed by the UA System Office. As you know, the budget represents a $25M cut system-wide with an additional $9M redirected at the system level toward investments at UAF, UAA, UAS and the statewide office. Since no new money was included in the budget, the investment funds come from reallocations across the system. The investment areas in the operating budget include Title IX, research, and strategic initiatives funded with one-time resources as well as with general fund (GF) base funding. 

Title IX compliance initiatives continue to be of high priority across the system. UA reallocated $0.7M to support new positions and training programs. Several of the compliance related positions are part of the new UA Human Resources structure, and $0.31M will support Title IX Investigators and training in the UAF Department of Equity & Compliance. 

Research reinvestment in FY20 includes the final installment of a three-year commitment statewide made in FY18. I have distributed UAF’s $1.4M share of this allocation by continuing decisions made in FY18 and FY19. They focus on increasing research productivity by allocating funds to research units in proportion to their ICR generation, continuing the post-doctoral program administered from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, and ensuring a commitment to safety and research compliance as well as economic development through support of the Office of Intellectual Property & Commercialization (OIPC). President’s Professorships in Energy and Quantitative Fisheries and Ecosystems, made in FY17 and FY18, respectively, were also reaffirmed. 

FY20 UA strategic investments are categorized into two groups: $5M in base GF commitments, and $4M in one-time initiatives continued from FY19. These investments are targeted in the following areas: economic development, workforce development, research, educational attainment, and cost effectiveness. UAF will be allocated $1.775M in base GF, with an opportunity to propose additional investments via a pending process for online program development ($700K available) and expansion of dual enrollment programs ($300K distribution TBD). UAF funded items include $0.825M for the Educators Rising program (per direction from the legislature), $0.3M in strategic research faculty recruitment/retention, $0.35M for an expansion of One Health, and $0.3M for marketing and student success. 

Additionally, many one-time strategic initiatives continuing from FY19 will be funded in FY20. Although these funds were initially a three-year commitment, FY21 funding will be set aside to support transition costs associated with outcomes from academic and service reviews. 

I will be sending a formal memo to distribute these UA strategic investments accordingly.

In the capital budget, UA received $5M for deferred maintenance (DM). UAF will receive $3.1M for deferred maintenance priority projects, and has requested additional supplemental funding for critical life/safety items from the state’s Office of Management and Budget, which is yet to be determined.

In addition to the system-wide distribution, UAF set aside some funds to invest in strategic enrollment planning. I will include a discussion of those investments next week after they are finalized. To that end, however, I am excited to share some enrollment news. In short, thanks to the leadership of Vice Chancellor Champagne and Associate Vice Chancellor Mary Kreta and her team, UAF has transformed its institutional enrollment strategies to proactively drive enrollment. This started with critical structural changes - creating the position of AVC of Enrollment Management and the Department of Military and Veteran Services, as well as early investments in strategic enrollment planning (SEP). Having enrollment management as a university-wide priority that is a part of everyone's responsibility has enabled initiatives and resources to move forward together.

While many of the SEP initiatives are just beginning, newly deployed or awaiting final approval, some initiatives were implemented and we are just now seeing the first returns. They include but are not limited to:

  • Personal phone calls to all non-enrolled students (incoming and returning)

  • Improved Financial Aid communication and information distribution 

  • Scholarship process improvement through the PIT crew facilitation process

  • Expanded marketing - both traditional and digital

  • Creation of a regional admissions counselor position in Washington

  • Substantial redesign of the Honors College that facilitated impressive growth

  • Innovative initiatives in eCampus

In spite of all of the challenges we faced this summer and fall, there are many bright spots in our enrollment. In fact, several campuses actually saw an increase in students this fall (yay!). Our enrollment successes belongs to everyone at the university. We are strategically linking services and initiatives through comprehensive and cohesive planning. Numerous people picked up the phone to call students, said yes to something they previously were not doing, showed up to meetings and applied their knowledge of UAF and our students to enrollment. Our numbers reflect UAF's commitment to student-centered strategic thinking. While there are many ups and downs ahead, I like to think that we are way ahead in our enrollment than we could be at this point due to the fine work of faculty, staff, and students across this campus. 

On a final note, the strategic enrollment planning team periodically meets in the Chancellor’s conference room. I refer to them as the “fun committee” because although they have much hard work, they seem to have a lot of fun too. Thanks for your work on campus and whatever “fun committee” you participate in that makes this university great.

Editor's note: The original version of this column incorrectly stated that UAF's allocation for deferred maintenance is $2.5 million. The column has been revised to reflect the correct allocation of $3.1 million.