Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing merger considerations, the University of Alaska Southeast will open its doors for classes on Aug. 24.
“We’re trying our best to keep everybody on campus safe,” said UAS Interim Chancellor Karen Carey. “UAS is open, we’re excited to get back to our semester, we’re going to take every precaution we can and we’re trying to accommodate everybody.”
Currently, the school anticipates around 400 students to attend face-to-face classes across its three campuses in Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka, Carey said, but most of the instruction will take place online. Reactions to university COVID-19 policies from faculty, students and families have been mixed, she said, but generally supportive.
Some students and faculty are eager to return to a classroom environment, she said, while others wanted to keep their distance. The university is trying to provide both, Carey said. About 150 students are expected to move into student housing at the Juneau campus, she said, but room capacity will be cut in half and students will only be allowed to take off their masks in their own living spaces. Masks will be required in all common areas, Carey said.
Most of the students living in dorms are in the 18-22-year-old age range, and can often be asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus, she said, and the university is taking precautions surrounding how students and faculty interact.
The threat of that merger has hurt enrollment, Carey said, but she is hopeful registration would pick up towards the end of summer.
Former University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen proposed UAS be merged with one of the other universities in the system as a way of cutting costs. The UA system is suffering under losses from both the coronavirus pandemic and cuts to the state budget, Johnsen said, and needed to find ways to save money.
“Our students register late anyway,” she said.
Enrollment was down about 18% Carey estimated, saying current total enrollment is about 2,000 students, down from the roughly 3,000 the university typically sees.
Students will start moving into student housing in Juneau over the weekend, Carey said, and faculty and staff were excited to start the new semester.
“We’re open, come on down,” she said.
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnoEmpire.