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UA president suggests slowing down restructuring timeline under smaller budget cut

  • Author: Tegan Hanlon
  • Updated: August 28
  • Published August 28

The University of Alaska president is proposing to slow down the timeline for restructuring the university system under this year’s smaller budget cut.

University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen speaks at a UA Board of Regents meeting, Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska. Facing severe budget cuts, regents voted 8-3 to authorize Johnsen to immediately reduce administrative costs and prepare a plan for a transition from three accredited institutions to one. (AP Photo/Dan Joling)

The timeline would push back UA regents’ decision on the university system’s structure to November, instead of a September vote. That would allow more time for input, according to UA President Jim Johnsen.

Johnsen presented the proposed plan at a regents’ subcommittee meeting Wednesday, ahead of the full board meeting on Sept. 12 and 13 in Anchorage.

It’s part of UA’s process to recompose its budget plan after Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s sharp shift in his position on state funding for the university system. UA’s one-year $135 million state funding cut was recently reduced to a $25 million cut for the fiscal year that started July 1. Dunleavy has said he’ll also support cutting another $45 million in state funding for UA over the following two years.

Under the smaller funding cut, regents canceled their declaration of financial exigency last week, slowing down the speed of job cuts and program eliminations.

Johnsen is now proposing that teams of people from across the university system review UA’s units and programs this fall. They’d determine how to “integrate, reduce or discontinue units and programs,” such as engineering and research, according to Johnsen’s presentation. Then regents would review that report in November.

“Once the board makes its decision in November about a new structure — whatever is determined by the board — we would transition in the summer of 2020 and be operational with those changes in the fall,” Johnsen said in a statement.

Regents had previously tasked Johnsen with drawing up a plan to merge UA’s three separately accredited universities to one university with multiple locations. It’s a controversial plan opposed by chancellors and others who support keeping the universities separately accredited under a more cooperative consortium model.

Johnsen will present the new proposed timeline at the September meeting for a regents’ vote.

Before that, regents will have a statewide call for people who want to give public testimony on Sept. 9 at 4 p.m. Regents will also take in-person public testimony at 8:15 a.m. at the Sept. 12 meeting in Anchorage.

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