University regents will request more cash from Legislature

The leaders of the University of Alaska are expected to ask the Alaska Legislature for a 7.7 percent budget increase this week.

The UA Board of Regents begin a two-day meeting at 8 a.m. today in Anchorage. At the meeting, they will set their budget request for Fiscal Year 2019, which starts July 1, 2018. According to documents prepared for the meeting, University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen will propose a $341.3 million operating budget. That’s up from $317 million in the current fiscal year.

The request is unlikely to be filled by the Legislature: Regents requested an increase ahead of the 2017 Legislative session as well, only to see the university’s budget cut further.

Since Fiscal Year 2014, the state’s contribution to the university system has dropped 16 percent, and the university’s costs have risen during the same period. That has led the university to cut programs and leave positions unfilled.

When the Legislature convenes for its regular session in January, it will be forced to balance a $2.7 billion statewide deficit, and some lawmakers are calling for further cuts to state services, including the university system.

The university regents are also expected to ask for a $50 million capital construction budget to be used for maintenance on school buildings. That item is also unlikely to be fulfilled by the Legislature. According to budget documents, the university’s aging buildings will require increasing amounts of maintenance to stay in shape.

Later in the meeting, the board of regents will be asked to decide a tuition increase for the 2019 and 2020 school years.

According to meeting documents: “Alaska continues to face severe economic challenges, which negatively impact the University of Alaska’s budget. As a result of declining state investment in the university, UA must continue to reduce costs and increase revenues, including tuition, if UA is to maintain and continuously enhance its high quality in teaching, service, and research.”

Johnsen will propose increasing tuition by 5 percent in 2019 and 5 percent in 2020. At the University of Alaska Southeast, the tuition cost of a lower-division credit hour would rise from $202 in the 2018 school year to $212 in 2019 and $223 in 2020.

Upper-division courses and graduate classes would see comparable increases.

Other items on the regents’ agenda include a discussion of the Strategic Pathways program and a Title IX compliance update. The budget discussion and tuition vote will take place Thursday. Anyone interested in following events from outside Anchorage can watch a Web stream of the meeting at www.alaska.edu/bor/live/


• Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 523-2258.


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