Summary: The University of Alaska Board of Regents voted to delay making a decision on a tuition increase, approved budget requests, and University of Alaska Southeast Chancellor Rick Caulfield announced he will retire in June during a board meeting at Fairbanks.
The motion to postpone the tuition rate increase passed unanimously. The meeting is taking a 5 minute break.
Bania he has observed that the board puts off almost every major decision.
“Sometimes it seems like it is paralyzed in that fashion,” Bania said.
Davies said he intends to support the motion, and it seems to be appropriate.
Bania said he understands, and he was making a general comment.
Tuition rates are now being discussed.
Perdue moved to postponed consideration of a tuition increase to January or a special meeting.
“So we can have further dialog with the students, who have made some really excellent points with their questions,” Perdue said.
She said based on the presentation of the budget, it’s clear that tuition revenue is important and not raising them could result in eliminating staff.
“It’s a zero sum game in some ways,” Perdue said.
Johnsen said no tuition rate increase would mean $7 million in lost revenue, which would translate to about 70 lost positions.
He acknowledged students have raised concerns about the tuition increase.
“However, I would note our tuition at least for the university programs is lower than our peers,” Johnsen. “If it generated $7 million would be about 20 percent of the gap. The other 80 percent of how we’re building the bridge from this year to next year is coming from other sources.”
The capital budget is now coming into focus.
According to the meeting packet, UA has asked for $50 million for maintenance every year since 2010. The most it has received in that time looks to about $45 million. Last year, it was $5 million.
“I recommend we ask for the $50 million,” Johnsen said.
The budget also includes a $2.5 million USArray request to improve Alaska’s ability to assess and prepare for earthquakes and tsunamis.
The operating budget request was universally approved. So too was the capital budget request.
Hargraves said he would like to do a detailed review of the budget.
“I just happen to be the kind of person who wants to know,” Hargraves said. “Everything is a summary, everything is a plan. Where’s the detail?”
Johnsen said he’d be happy to work with the chair to provide that information.
Bania said he’d prefer not to micromanage.
Perdue said a future workshop may be a good idea, but not something that can be solve today.
“I like the idea of a workshop,” Johnsen said.
Johnsen said there is no reduction in spending on Title IX and safety planned for the coming years.
A report on Title IX compliance is on the meeting’s agenda.
“This is very daunting,” Perdue said. “What exactly are you asking for?”
Johnsen said he’s asking for approval for a budget that asks for a $25 million reduction, but he will advocate for the regents’ budget unless told to do otherwise by the board.
“When we approve this have we approved the FY 21 budget?” asked Hargraves.
Johnsen said no, the proposed budget will go on to the governor, who will send his budget to the Legislature, and the board will likely approve a budget at its June meeting.
“This year, we didn’t get to do that until well into the year unfortunately, which creates part of our challenge for this fiscal year,” Johnsen said.
The proposed budget shows the expected $25 million cut to the budget will mean a $9.1 million cut to UAA, $12.3 million to UAF, $1.9 million to UAS and $1.7 million to SW/EE.
“What is the likelihood of the legislators starting to legislate and demand we move forward in certain ways with these budget cuts?” asked Regent Gloria O’Neil.
Johnsen said it’s tough to put a number to that since while the Legislature does sometimes meet in the same building in the same city, they do not seem to be of one mind on this matter.
A graph included in the budget packet shows next year’s projected $277 million in state funding is $101 million less than was received in fiscal year 2014.
Here’s a link to that packet.
It’s time for a financial briefing and budget discussion. Budget discussion includes the proposed 5% tuition increase.
Chief Finance Officer Myron Dosch said a cuts to state funding mean UA will drop below a self-imposed debt-to-revenue ratio.
However, he said expenditures and revenue project to be sustainable.
“This is a good operating level as we move into years of expected revenue decline,” Dosch said.
He said tuition revenue is down $4 million because of enrollment decreases.
Dosch said over the past several years there have been reductions in state funding for UA, and he anticipates those to continue and to be a prominent part of discussions going forward.
Regent Karen Perdue asked how UA spends revenue from tuition and fees, which Dosch said amount to a $134 million revenue source.
“I would really appreciate an accounting for how we’re using our tuition, and perhaps back a couple of years, just so we can understand,” Perdue said.
“I believe that we need to be transparent and acocunt for the tuition and fees, so we can answer any questions that come up,” she added.
Parker asked if it is Johnsen’s recommendation that athletic funding be included in next year’s operating budget?
Johnsen said there are few specifics, but athletics are included.
Davies said he’d like to move UA development up on the agenda.
UA Foundation President Susan Behlke Foley will provide an update on those efforts, she’s also requesting dissolution of quasi-endowments, which she said can build up in value but won’t be usable for decades.
Those include the Sen. E.L. “Bob” Bartlett Rare Book Fund and the Gen. JG Steel & AW Shiels Prize.
There’s evident confusion about what exactly has been decided regarding athletics among regents. Chancellors spoke as if it was certain that athletics will be part of 2021 plans.
Regent Mary Hughes said she expected to vote on the matter.
“We need to figure out who’s in charge,” said Hughes said. “I would prefer the board not be forced to take a pass next year.”
Regent John Bania said he doesn’t see a problem with the process since it seems the chancellors have worked out their respective budgets.
“There’s a hard difference of opinion among regents,” Davies said.
A regent asked if there’s been recruiting problems in light of uncertainty.
Sandeen said she hadn’t specifically heard anything, but White said uncertainty casts a pall over everything.
White is reviewing a financial strategy, which includes a simplified pathway to giving, increased ticket sales, coordinating with the alumni association and affinity groups for private giving, community engagement in fundraising events, coordinating with UAF development and the UA Foundation, emphasizing impacts and connecting with a more diverse fan base.
Sandeen, who is now wearing a UAA Seawolves cap, is speaking to the positive impact of athletics.
Some takeaways: UAA student-athletes have a higher graduation rate and GPA , there is a total $8 million budget for athletics and 10 student athletes were lost over the summer when they transferred to other universities amid budget uncertainty.
The meeting as been called back to order. It’s going to start with a report on athletics, which is something some spoke to during public comments.
The presentation is being led by UAF Chancellor Daniel White.
“Student athletes are a specific group, and they come out of high school with four years typically they commit to a school,” White said. “November is important because if for whatever reason we were to decide not to support athletics, athletes would need to know.”
Student athlete Lahra Weber, who is from Berlin, Germany, is speaking about athletics, which she said helps attract students to UAF who otherwise would not enroll there.
“I personally had never heard of UAF until I got recruited by them, and I chose them because they’re such a great natural sciences school,” Weber said.
During the break, I’ve had a chance to read over a press release regarding the impending retirement of the UAS Chancellor.
The retirement is expected to come in June 2020, and a new chancellor is expected to be in the position by July 2020.
Johnsen said a representative search committee will be created along with a timeline for the search. The committee will include representatives from UAS governance groups, campus advisory councils and community partners.
The search timeline will include on-campus visits by finalists in the spring. Visits will include the UAS Ketchikan and Sitka campuses. There also will be opportunities for input from community members in Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka prior to a decision being made by Johnsen.
The board meeting is taking a short break. A lot of budget talk is on the horizon.
An agreement that was part of Alaska becoming a state could be a boon for UA.
Ed Fogels with Jade North, who is working with the UA land management staff, said work is underway to identify 360,000 acres of federal land that would be transferred to the university.
These lands would come from the Alaska’s remaining statehood land entitlement, which is currently approximately 5 million acres, Fogels said.
“Can we feel optimistic that this is about to fall into place, say in the next 10 years?” Hargraves asked.
Fogels said it’s possible it could taken care of “relatively quickly.”
He said once an agreement is in place, it could be done in a matter of months.
A break never came.
Instead, there was a lengthy discussion about decision-making power in addressing budget cuts and what information makes it’s way to regents.
Regent Darroll Hargraves asked if a decision is made to reduce the number of campus security officers, where that decision comes from.
“That’s not the regents’ decision is it?” he asked.
Johnsen said that is something decided by chancellors.
White said as UAF chancellor, he writes a weekly column about budget decisions.
“In the end all budget rolls up to me and then to the president,” White said.
Sandeen said a lot of that is similar at UAA.
“It is a conversation, and we work together to come up with the best solution possible in fulfilling our mission to our students and our faculty,” she said.
Caulfield said things are similar at UAS.
“Our budget’s in place for FY20, and we’re actively involved in looking at our FY2021 budget,” he said.
Caulfield said deans and faculty are in the process of examining budget priorities.
He said budget cuts are not a recent phenomenon, and there is a lot of information gathered from past budget cut proposals.
“We are looking for our deans and directors to provide priorities for us,” Caulfield said. “In my role as chancellor, I have to maek some of those decisions in concert with out leadership team.”
Johnsen said he’d like to work through one more agenda item before a short break in the meeting —approving the consent agenda.
After the break, a report on athletics, a financial briefing and a budget discussion are among about a dozen items on the agenda.
Mathew Mund, Staff Alliance Chair, said while anticipated compensation increases are welcome, there are concerns that budget constraints coupled with raises could result in staff being let go to save money.
Mund said he had not heard of that happening, but it is being watched for.
“That’s a real concern among staff,” he said.
The faculty alliance report has underscored a desire for more shared governance.
The meeting is moving briskly, and it’s on to governance reports.
Terese Wrobel, Coalition of Student Leaders Vice Chair, said yesterday a resolution was passed asking for a pause on tuition increase. The second resolution was an endorsement of a faculty alliance resolution that proposes that policies be updated to more clearly define the roles of chancellors.
Caulfield concluded his speech by announcing he will retire next year.
“I wanted you all to know that I have voiced my intention to President Johnsen to retire next year,” Caulfield said. “Not an easy decision. It’s been 35 years as a faculty member. I’m very proud of the accomplishments.”
He will have spent five years as chancellor at the time of his retirement, Caulfield said.
“I say this too with a sense of great pleasure knowing we have a very strong leadership team,” Caulfield said in reference to UAS administrators. “I am confident we have solid leadership in place at UAS.”
Among those highlighted were Lori Klein, Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management & Student Affairs; Michael Ciri, Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services; Ronalda Cadiente Brown, Associate Vice Chancellor for Alaska Native Programs; and Provost Karen Carey.
Caulfield said he will still be at meetings for the next seven months, but a search committee must be formed and a screening process started.
“We appreciate your long service to the university,” said Regent John Davies.
The first chancellor speaking is UAF Chencellor Daniel White.
He said athletics have widespread support and will continue despite budget concerns.
“I’m looking forward to that report, but we’ll talk more about that,” White said.
White said there are a lot of positive things happening.
That continued the continued success of rural student services, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
“Rural student services works with 500 students per year,” White said. “In the past 30 years, rural student services played a part in more than 4,400 Alaska Native students from UAF.”
Now, UAA Chancellor Cathy Sandeen is speaking.
She spotlighted the Armed Forces Classic being played in the Alaska Airlines Center.
Sandeen is also highlighted UAA research, such as a study about the impact of studded tires on roads, reducing wildfire risk, a look at the impact of universal basic income and obesity and an essay about free speech.
“Finally, I’d like to talk a little bit about something that popped up recently,” Sandeen said.
A program that allowed students to pay off parking fines with food stuffs received national attention Sandeen said.
Caulfield is up.
While nothing will be official until May, full accreditation is expected for UAS’ College of Education.
“We were very please by that,” he said. “A very, very positive outcome from that site visit.”
Caulfield credited College of Education faculty for the successful outcome.
“A second item is the Senator Ted Stevens Legislative Intern program,” Caulfield said.
He said 18 students from UAS, UAA and UAF are expected to be part of the program.
“We’re very grateful to the Ted Stevens Foundation for their support,” Caulfield said.
“We’re continuing to work on the expansion of online programs,” Johnsen said. “We really want to sharped our focus our attention to the more than the more than 100,000 Alaskans with some college and no degree…How can we help them finish?”
He said the university faces the challenge of preserving what’s most important to the university while shedding less
“In addition to working through all the technical challenges we face, we face as we discussed yesterday and discussed today, we face a much more difficult adaptive challenge for the university,” Johnsen said.
Johnsen said he valued in put from the students who spoke today.
“I wish frankly the specific concerns they raised with me were raised last month when we met and earlier this week when we met,” Johnsen said.
He said he would like to learn alongside students.
Johnsen said he wished the last several months of increased media attention UA has received was tied to positive developments rather than budget cuts.
“A lot of that coverage was about what a responsible board must do,” Johnsen said. “Coverage continued to be about the negative consequence of cuts.”
He said faculty, staff and board members had to watch the saga play out in papers, political blogs and social media platforms.
“Once responsibility for the budget cuts shifted from the governor to the university, opposition shifted from the governor to how we’re handling those reductions,” Johnsen said.
Budget discussion is likely multiple hours away, but meeting documents show a request that matches with the “step-down” compact between regents and Dunleavy.
The compact is a compromise between UA and the governor wherein the university system’s budget would be cut by $70 million over three years instead of $136 million in one year as proposed by the governor.
The budget proposal includes a state appropriation ask of $277 million, which is a $25 million (8.3%) decrease over FY2020.
Rep. Bart LeBon, R-Fairbanks, is talking about the necessity of the UA Scholars program.
“I will pay closer attention to that this year and make sure the drama is reduced to the lowest possible potential,” he said.
This year, scholarships were threatened by the possibility of being “swept” before a bookkeeping quirk known as “the sweep” was reversed by the Legislature.
He said there is a challenging divide in the Legislature.
“We’re going to have to work our way through that in the House and the Senate,” LeBon said.
He said the budget cuts are UA’s challenge.
LeBon said it’s important to remember athletics has a role in the university system.
That seems to have concluded public testimony.
Regent Lisa Parker said she appreciates everyone who shared their thoughts today.
“I do see this as an inclusive process that includes the students, the staff and the community,” Parker said.
There will be a 10-minute break in the meeting, and then the agenda will resume. First up is approval of minutes, then there will be reports from Johnsen, chancellors and a governance report.
If the chancellors speak in the listed order, first up will be UAS Chancellor Rick Caulfield.
“Every time the tuition is raised, the students suffer,” Diana Ramstad, a senator at ASUAF and self-described “nontraditional student.”
She said regents need to spend more time connecting with students on campus.
“Informal, formal, however the policies are supposed to be, we can make it happen,” Ramstad said.
Public testimony has now stretched an hour past the initially scheduled time.
Johnsen said he appreciated the students who have traveled to attend the morning’s meeting and for
“Thank you for making the effort,” Johnsen said.
Many of the morning’s speaker have asked that the UA Board of Regents to empower chancellors to operate their respective universities as CEOs.
That discussion has mostly been in response to a letter sent Sept. 26 by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, UA’s accreditor, that expressed concerns the division of authority and responsibility between a system and institution is clearly delineated. UA released a joint response to the letter.
That’s something that will likely come up during president’s, chancellors’ and government reports that will follow public comment.
For the past 20 minutes or so, those offering testimony have been students voicing displeasure about what they’ve characterized as a belittling and dismissive attitude from university administration.
They’ve also knocked a proposed 5% tuition increase.
“Every tuition increase, we lose students,” said USUAA Assembly Speaker of the Assembly Pro Tempore Tuan Graziano. “I think it’s critically important that you take the time to look at what these tuition increases will cost, not in terms of revenue, but in terms of students. We are going to be a shadow of our former selves if this keeps happening.”
Johnsen noted the hour budgeted for public testimony has run out, but he would be extending the time.
He asked that people speaking to points that have already been raised agree with past testimony, so that everyone will get a chance to speak.
“It’s not meant to be disrespectful,” Johnsen said.
The general theme running through this morning’s public comments is that there are serious concerns about the future of the University of Alaska.
Sharon Chamard, associate professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center, said preliminary results of a University of Alaska Anchorage and University of Alaska Fairbanks faculty morale survey found roughly 50% of faculty members are actively looking for a new job, and 80% of faculty said morale has declined.
“We do appreciate this has been difficult for everyone,” Johnsen said.
Others who have delivered public testimony include University of Alaska Southeast history professor David Noon, UAS assistant professor of outdoor studies Forest Wagner, Rep. Adam Wool, D-Fairbanks and student leaders from UAA’s Union of Students.
The students have mostly spoken to defend their vote of no confidence in Johnsen and criticized his response to the vote.
“The feedback we received from President Johnsen and many people sitting at this table were dismissive,” said USUAA President Clare Baldwin.
University of Alaska leaders are meeting in Fairbanks today, and budget discussion is on the agenda.
A budget discussion, discussion regarding response to the Legislature and Gov. Mike Dunleavy, 2021 operating and capital budget requests and a 1o-year improvement plan are part of the schedule for a Board of Regents meeting that comes amid anticipated cuts to university funding and a no-confidence vote in University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen.
The meeting is starting with public comment and both matters are being spoken about by students, faculty and state lawmakers who traveled to Fairbanks for the meeting.
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.