Merging the Univesity of Alaska Southeast with one of the other two universities in the University of Alaska system is only one of several options being considered by the UA Board of Regents this week. The considerations are being made in light of massive reductions in revenue and funding cuts on the horizon.
UA President Jim Johnsen said, during a press conference last week, options being considered include ending 50 degree programs system wide and merging UAS with one of the other two schools in the system. The Regents will meet Thursday and Friday but there’s no guarantee they’ll make a definitive decision just yet, according to Johnsen.
Johnsen presented multiple cost-cutting measures in a May 13 presentation to the Regents. But while Johnsen selected only a few options to examine in detail, there are still other options and models the university could look at, according to Paul Layer, vice president of academics, students and research at UA.
“There are other models out there that (Regents) could consider,” Layer said. “There are other options that would lead to cost reductions throughout the system that are more internal than something that is public facing.”
The COVID-19 pandemic made the university’s pre-existing economic woes all the more worse, Johnsen said, and there was limited time to available to research options. That doesn’t mean those options are off the table, Layer said, and the regents could ask for a more detailed examination of other options at their meeting.
While the structure of the university may change, Layer said, the university would not be considering the single-accreditation model which was examined last summer. The universities would remain but what they might look like is not yet clear.
“The nursing program is already a (UAA) program,” Layer said. “(UAF) operates campuses in Nome and Kotzebue, the question is what would that Juneau facility look like? How would we use those facilities?”
Selling them is not an option, according to Layer, who said despite changes to UA’s structure, the university was still trying to meet the needs of all Alaskans.
The merger option, Layer said, was “Quite significant. We do recognize we have the obligation to provide higher education options to the whole sate. We don’t see that changing.”
A second option would see the state’s community college system be consolidated into one organization, potentially UAS.
“Each of our three universities has a very diverse mission,” Layer said. “UAF has the community college mission but it also has PhD programs.”
Managing those two missions can be difficult and moving community colleges to their own administrative system could free the universities to focus on other areas, Layer said.
“That would allow that university to coordinate their activities a little better,” Layer said. “It’s very unusual to have a community college embedded within a four-year structure.”
Layer also said he didn’t see UAS’s workforce training programs like the maritime program being eliminated.
The Regents will be taking public comment Tuesday, June 2, from 4-6 p.m. and will have a full meeting Thursday and Friday, June 4-5.
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