State of University speech warns of cuts

FAIRBANKS — The new president of the University of Alaska is warning students and staff of potential cuts to degree offerings and university jobs as the statewide university system faces financial uncertainty.

President Jim Johnsen said during his first State of the University speech on Tuesday that it remains unclear exactly how the state’s $3.5 billion budget shortfall will affect the university. Johnsen said the state budget will likely be finalized in April, putting off a decision on whether to reduce or possibly invest in more university programs until June, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

In the meantime, university officials are working on contingency plans in anticipation of decreased funding from the state Legislature. Johnsen and the Board of Regents are awaiting those plans from each campus as well as a list of programs up for “expedited review.”

“All in, we’re in excess of (a) $900 million operation, 16 locations with 7,000 faculty and staff and 478 degree programs. And we think of that as 478 products that you sell,” Johnsen said. “It’s very complex.”

The university reached that level while the state was seeing a good flow of revenue because of high oil prices, Johnsen said.

“Times are tough now, but they’re likely to get even tougher in the coming years,” he said. The university will continue to deal with any challenges and “not just hunker down under a desk and wait for oil prices to rebound.”

Despite the impact of cuts already made, the university continues to produce well-educated graduates while keeping tuition low relative to other comparable institutions, Johnsen said. The university has contributed to a growing number of nursing graduates to fill the state’s needs and it remains a leader in Arctic research, he said.

“It takes a great university to make a great state,” Johnsen said. “We know, we live and breathe that mission every single day. We are the University of Alaska and we are the university for Alaska.”

Johnsen said the decisions made later on this year for the university will be based on the needs of the state.

“Our criteria will include quality, cost, demand, productivity, benefits and a variety of other considerations,” he said. “There will be some friction, tension and outright opposition to some of the recommendations that come forward this spring for the regents’ decision in June.”

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 May 25

Here’s what to expect this week.

Thunder Mountain High School graduates celebrate after moving their tassels to the left, their newly received diplomas in hand, at the end of Sunday’s commencement ceremony. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)
‘Forever a Falcon’: Thunder Mountain High School celebrates final graduating class

147 seniors get soaring sendoff during 16th annual commencement full of heightened emotions.

Seniors at Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé enter the gymnasium for their commencement ceremony on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
JDHS graduates celebrate journey from virtual ‘pajama class’ freshmen to virtuous camaraderie

Resolve in overcoming struggles a lifelong lesson for future, seniors told at commencement ceremony.

Sierra Guerro-Flores (right) listens to her advisor Electra Gardinier after being presented with her diploma at Yaaḵoosgé Daakahídi High School’s graduation ceremony Sunday in the Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé auditorium. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Alternatives are vast for Yaaḵoosgé Daakahídi High School’s graduating class

31 students take center stage during ceremony revisiting their paths at the school and what’s next.

The LeConte state ferry in 2023. (Lex Treinen / Chilkat Valley News)
Stranded Beerfest travelers scramble to rebook after LeConte ferry breakdown

Loss of 225-passenger ferry leaves many Juneau-bound revelers looking for other ways home.

A photo taken from the terminal roof shows the extent of the first phase of paving to accommodate large aircraft. (Mike Greene / City and Borough of Juneau)
Large-scale repaving project plants itself at Juneau International Airport

Work may take two to three years, schedule seeks to limit impact on operations.

Capital Transit buses wait to depart from the downtown transit center on Thursday. Route number 8 was adjusted this spring. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)
More service, visitor information helping Capital Transit to keep up with extra cruise passenger traffic

Remedies made after residents unable to board full buses last year seem to be working, officials say

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Thursday, May 23, 2024

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

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Wednesday, May 22, 2024

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

Most Read