A student walks across the University of Alaska Southeast campus on Friday, Feb. 29, 2020. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

A student walks across the University of Alaska Southeast campus on Friday, Feb. 29, 2020. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

Tough road ahead for University, Johnsen says, but future is bright

University is refining its programs to be more cost effective

Despite experiencing significant cutbacks, the University of Alaska still has a lot to offer the state, said University President Jim Johnsen.

“We do not have a mascot for the UA system, but if we did, it should be that enduring symbol from our mythological past, the phoenix, the bird of fire, rising anew, strong, bright and resilient from the ashes of a most challenging 2019,” Johnsen told the audience AlaskaCAN! conference in Anchorage Friday.

The university is still working its way through a 21% reduction over three years, per last year’s step-down agreement with Gov. Mike Dunleavy. While those cuts are substantial, Johnsen said, the university was looking at ways of refining the services it offers and ways to increase its revenues.

To that end, the university has enacted a 5% tuition crease beginning for the 2020 fall semester, and it has put more effort into increasing enrollment.

Even with the tuition increase, UA remains one of the most affordable universities in the nation, Johnsen said. When the UA Board of Regents voted for the tuition increase, they also voted to use $1.5 million in tuition revenue for financial aid for students. University officials are still working out how much each university will get, Johnsen said.

UA is looking to bolster its most in-demand programs, Johnsen said, and each branch was currently reviewing the programs it offers for cost savings.

“The programs will be reviewed and prioritized according to criteria established by the board. Quality, cost, demand, availability of alternatives and alignment with the board’s five strategic goals,” Johnsen said. “Which are, economic development, research, workforce development, educational attainment and equity and cost effectiveness.”

Universities will provide their reports to the Board of Regents on March 23 and recommendations will be put forward in early June, according to Johnsen.

Despite the significant reductions to the university system, there were bright spots on the horizon. The university has sought-after research projects, particularly in the Arctic and is working with the federal government to increase funding for those projects.

Johnsen also said since 2015 the university had received $105 million in private contributions, roughly half of which were from first-time donors. He said Alaska’s congressional delegation is also working with the federal government to receive the remainder of the lands promised to the university system in its founding.

So far the university has only gotten 20% of the lands due from the federal government, but that land has been sold or developed and the money put back into the system, Johnsen said.

“Yes, we will need to make tough decisions, programs will be reduced and discontinued,” Johnsen said. “But as we take our destiny in our own hands, as those decisions are made, the interests of our students come first.”

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or psegall@juneauempire.com.

More in News

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File
The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014.
Aurora Forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of March. 19

President Joe Biden speaks during an event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, March 23, 2023, celebrating the 13th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. Recent moves by President Joe Biden to pressure TikTok over its Chinese ownership and approve oil drilling in an untapped area of Alaska are testing the loyalty of young voters, a group that’s been largely in his corner. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
Biden’s moves on Willow, TikTok test young voters

A potential TikTok ban and the Alaska drilling could weigh down reelection bid.

Students dance their way toward exiting the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé gymnasium near the end of a performance held before a Gold Medal Basketball Tournament game between Juneau and Hydaburg. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Over $2,500 raised for Tlingit language and culture program during Gold Medal performance

A flurry of regionwide generosity generated the funds in a matter of minutes.

Legislative fiscal analysts Alexei Painter, right, and Conor Bell explain the state’s financial outlook during the next decade to the Senate Finance Committee on Friday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Legislators eye oil and sales taxes due to fiscal woes

Bills to collect more from North Slope producers, enact new sales taxes get hearings next week.

The FBI Anchorage Field Office is seeking information about this man in relation to a Wednesday bank robbery in Anchorage, the agency announced Thursday afternoon. Anyone with information regarding the bank robbery can contact the FBI Anchorage Field Office at 907-276-4441 or tips.fbi.gov. Tips can be submitted anonymously.  (FBI)
FBI seeks info in Anchorage bank robbery

The robbery took place at 1:24 p.m. on Wednesday.

Kevin Maier
Sustainable Alaska: Climate stories, climate futures

The UAS Sustainability Committee is hosting a series of public events in April…

Reps. Tom McKay, R-Anchorage, and Andi Story, D-Juneau, offering competing amendments to a bill increasing the per-student funding formula for public schools by $1,250 during a House Education Committee meeting Wednesday morning. McKay’s proposal to lower the increase to $150 was defeated. Story’s proposal to implement an increase during the next two years was approved, after her proposed amounts totalling about $1,500 were reduced to $800.
Battle lines for education funding boost get clearer

$800 increase over two years OKd by House committee, Senate proposing $1,348 two-year increase

A call for a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature to cast a vote that would reject recently-approved salary increases for legislators and top executive branch officials is made by State House Speaker Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, during a press conference Tuesday. Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, rejected the joint session in a letter to Tilton on Wednesday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
House efforts to nix legislative pay raises hit Senate roadblock

Call for a joint session rejected by upper chamber, bills to overturn pay hikes may lack support

A simulated photo shows the tailings stack and other features of Hecla Greens Creek Mine under the most aggressive of four alternatives for expanding the mine in an environmental impact assessment published Thursday by the U.S Forest Service. The tailings stack is modestly to drastically smaller in the other alternatives. The public comment period for the study is from March 24 to May 8. (U.S. Forest Service)
New study digs into alternatives for Greens Creek Mine expansion

Public comment starts Friday on four options that could extend mine’s life up to 40 years

Most Read