Regent Karen Perdue, center, speaks at an emergency meeting of the University of Alaska Board of Regents on Monday, July 22, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska. Regents voted 10-1 to declare a financial exigency, allowing administrators to expedite layoffs of tenured faculty in the face of severe budget issues. (AP Photo/Dan Joling)

Regent Karen Perdue, center, speaks at an emergency meeting of the University of Alaska Board of Regents on Monday, July 22, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska. Regents voted 10-1 to declare a financial exigency, allowing administrators to expedite layoffs of tenured faculty in the face of severe budget issues. (AP Photo/Dan Joling)

Financial crisis opens University of Alaska up to layoffs

ANCHORAGE — The University of Alaska Board of Regents decided Monday they could no longer wait to see if the Alaska Legislature will bail them out from severe budget cuts inflicted by Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

Meeting in an emergency session, regents voted 10-1 to allow administrators to expedite layoffs of tenured faculty, end programs and take other measures to cut expenses.

Declaring the financial emergency is a terrible blow to the university’s reputation, said regent President John Davies. Faculty considering a job would think twice about accepting one, he said, but at this point, the university’s financial situation is not a secret.

“The national headlines are already out there,” he said. “Those faculty members are already choosing not to come. Students are choosing not to come.”

Moving forward without action was no longer a choice, Davies said.

“We have to, in effect, plan for the worst and hope for the best, at this point,” he said after the vote.

Dunleavy, a first-term Republican governor who took office in December, used his line-item veto pen on June 28 to slash more than $400 million from the state operating budget approved by the Legislature.

About one-third of his vetoes were directed at the university. Along with a $5 million cut made by legislators, the university saw its state funding fall by $136 million, a cut of 41% that took effect three days later with the start of the new fiscal year.

That translated into reductions of $11 million each month for the next year. Continuing to delay a decision on how to reduce expenses would compound the problem and require greater cuts later, said UA President Jim Johnsen. Layoffs are inevitable because most of the budget is devoted to people, he said.

The regents could vote on what to cut in September.

Johnson asked regents for direction on how to plan and gave them three alternatives: cut entire campuses, cut each campus proportionately, or come up with a new university structure that makes strategic cuts with fewer programs offered at fewer locations, larger class sizes and consolidated administration.

Regents opted to receive more information on the latter two and will meet again July 30.

The university has main campuses in Fairbanks, Anchorage and Juneau and 13 satellite campuses. Proportionate reductions would hit UA Fairbanks, where most research facilities are located, with a $67 million reduction. UA Anchorage, which serves the most students, would see a $47 million reduction. UA Southeast would be in line for a $10 million reduction.

A majority of state lawmakers two weeks ago voted in favor of overriding Dunleavy vetoes but could not muster a three-fourths majority required to override. Legislators are currently meeting in a special session.

Override supporters vowed to try to restore university money and hoped public pressure would change the minds of override opponents.

Regent Lisa Parker cast the only vote against the declaration. She would not comment afterward, citing regent policy that says only the board president could speak for the board.

Regent Karen Perdue said the public needs to understand how short the time is to make major institutional decisions while minimizing harm to students.

“We not only have a moral obligation to students, we have a legal obligation to students in relation to our accreditation,” Perdue said. “When you think about students who are halfway through their course of study, and they’ve already spent a lot of money, and invested in us, to give them such a short notice, and finality, is just not acceptable.”


• This is an Associated Press report by Dan Joling.


More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of June 15

Here’s what to expect this week.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Thursday, June 13, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Bill Thomas, a former Republican state representative from Haines, announced Friday he is dropping out of the race for the District 3 House seat this fall. (U.S. Sustainability Alliance photo)
Bill Thomas drops out of District 3 House race, says there isn’t time for fishing and campaigning

Haines Republican cites rough start to commercial season; incumbent Andi Story now unopposed.

U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, speaks at the Alaska Democratic Party’s state convention on May 18 at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Peltola among few Democrats to vote for annual defense bill loaded with GOP ‘culture war’ amendments

Alaska congresswoman expresses confidence “poison pills” will be removed from final legislation.

A celebratory sign stands outside Goldbelt Inc.’s new building during the Alaska Native Regional Corporation’s 50th-anniversary celebration on Jan. 4. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Medical company sues Goldbelt for at least $30M in contract dispute involving COVID-19 vaccine needles

Company says it was stuck with massive stock of useless needles due to improper specs from Goldbelt.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Wednesday, June 12, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

A yearling black bear waits for its mother to return. Most likely she won’t. This time of year juvenile bears are separated, sometimes forcibly, by their mothers as families break up during mating season. (Photo courtesy K. McGuire)
Bearing witness: Young bears get the boot from mom

With mating season for adults underway, juveniles seek out easy food sources in neighborhoods.

A chart shows COVID-19 pathogen levels at the Mendenhall wastewater treatment plant during the past three months. (Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Wastewater Surveillance System)
Juneau seeing another increase in COVID-19 cases, but a scarcity of self-test kits

SEARHC, Juneau Drug have limited kits; other locations expect more by Saturday.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks to reporters during a news conference Feb. 7. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Gov. Dunleavy picks second ex-talk radio host for lucrative fish job after first rejected

Rick Green will serve at least through Legislature’s next confirmation votes in the spring of 2025.

Most Read