The University of Alaska Anchorage announced on Wednesday a $13 million shortfall for the 2016 fiscal year. The effects will be felt across Kenai Peninsula College sites.
The UAA Office of the Chancellor released a budget detailing where reductions will be made to offset a $6.8 million decrease in state funding and increases in operational costs.
Kenai Peninsula College is addressing a $425,000 hole due to the shortfall by leaving vacant positions open and consolidating courses between its two campuses and two extension sites.
KPC Director Gary Turner said the college has been preparing for cuts.
“In past years we had been adding and adding positions because the program was expanding,” Turner said. “Then we saw the light coming toward us that the budget was getting slimmer.”
Two faculty positions in the history and digital art departments, which had been budgeted for the 2016 Fiscal year that ended on June 30, were left open after both professors retired, Turner said.
“We didn’t lose anybody but we didn’t fill what we thought we could,” Turner said.
Last year the college reduced $348,000 in spending, which was roughly a 4.5 percent trim, Turner said. This year reductions total roughly 5 percent, which the college is addressing by suspending the Associate of Applied Science Digital Art program, which Turner said may have been done anyway, because “interest in the program has decreased.”
The college has five years to get any current Digital Art students through the program before it is completely phased out, Turner said. Five senior employees retired at the end of the 2015 school year, which resulted in automatic “salary saving,” because those staff received more compensation for having more experience, he said. Additional cuts in coming years are likely.
“Just like every other state agency we hope the price of oil goes back up again, but that is probably not going to happen,” Turner said. The college is preparing for a 5 to 10 percent reduction in state funding in Fiscal Year 2017, Turner said.
In January the college released a survey to staff and students “asking for potential ideas on how to increase revenue, and avoid spending or reduce costs”, Turner said. In total, 150 concepts were generated, which the leadership team, which consists of Turner, department chairs and department supervisors, is still picking through. Turner said the ideas fell into about four categories, including “can’t be done,” “makes sense and can implement,” “needs more research,” and “already being implemented.” The remaining 20 ideas will be looked at further in September, he said.
“That all that adds up but it’s not like personnel costs,” which account for about 70 percent of the college’s annual budget, Turner said.
Options to reduce personnel costs in future years might be to reduce a 12-month contract to an 11-month contract, or lower a staff member’s 40-hour workweek down to 36 hours, Turner said. This year KPC will receive about 60 percent of its total budget — about $7.2 million — in state appropriations, as well as $726,987 already allocated by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly. The remainder will come from tuition.
Tuition hikes specifically at KPC are unlikely, Turner said.
It would be possible to request an increase through the UAA chancellor and University of Alaska Anchorage president in student payments for KPC, but that would likely discourage student enrollment, ultimately negating any additional revenue, Turner said. Usually, when the University Board of Regents approves tuition increases the raise applies for all UAA campuses and community campuses.
“Tuition is the same if you are in Fairbanks, Kenai, or Homer,” Turner said. “I think it is going to stay that way.”
The University of Alaska released a 2016 budget, detailing reductions that are being made throughout the system. The Kodiak, Kenai, Mat-Su and Prince William Sound community colleges are absorbing roughly $1 million of the $13 million shortfall, according to the budget.
Layoffs are being contained to 17 positions through out the system, but 203 positions will be affected by the next year’s fiscal plan, according to a Wednesday press release by UAA Public Relations and Marketing Manager Sarah Henning.
Courses are also being consolidated throughout the UAA system, and the computer science Master’s degree program, which had zero students enrolled, is being cut, according to the release. The full budget document can be found at the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Office of the Chancellor website.
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