University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen speaks during an interview at the Juneau Empire on Wednesday, April 19, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen speaks during an interview at the Juneau Empire on Wednesday, April 19, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

University of Alaska president says he is proud and confident yet concerned about system

In his annual “State of the University” address, University of Alaska president Jim Johnsen urged Alaskans to support increases in funding for the university system and said the state’s public university has much to be proud and confident about.

“We’re all in, and we hope that you’re all in, too,” Johnsen told the audience at the University of Alaska Anchorage on Tuesday.

The State of the University was delivered as part of a luncheon forum with Commonwealth North, whose president — former lieutenant governor Mead Treadwell — introduced Johnsen.

In a half-hour speech, Johnsen made the case that the University of Alaska is a vital part of the state, and that the state’s pioneers — whether in 1867, 1917 or 1957 — “knew one thing really well: It takes a great university to build a great state.”

He said there is cause for concern with the state of the university’s finances. In the past three years, the university has seen its budget slashed. Today, there are “1,183 fewer faculty and staff than three years ago,” he said, then repeated that figure for emphasis.

“These cuts hurt badly, but the greater impact … is the impact to the state and our reduced capacity to serve our large unmet needs for higher education,” he said.

Last year’s Legislature authorized spending $317 million in state support of the university. (That figure does not include revenue from tuition, fees or federal support.)

The university’s governing Board of Regents suggested increasing that figure to $341 million in the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Neither the governor nor the Legislature have been inclined to follow the regents’ suggestion. In December, Gov. Bill Walker proposed a budget a few hundred thousand dollars below last year’s figure, or about $317 million again. The Legislature has not yet finished its work, but it is not expected to vary greatly from the governor’s suggestion.

Johnsen urged attendees to talk to their lawmakers and tell them to increase funding for the university system and approve a sustainable fiscal plan to avert further cuts.

“We should be concerned because since 2014, our state has been disinvesting in higher education,” he said.

The Anchorage location of Johnsen’s speech was a departure from last year’s event, which took place in Juneau’s Hangar Ballroom as part of the Juneau Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon series.

Johnsen will return to Juneau Wednesday for a Lunch and Learn presentation to be held at noon in the Capitol. The House subcommittee in charge of the university’s budget is expected to finalize its recommendations in a meeting starting at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.


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


More in News

The badge for the Kenai Police Department (Clarion file)
Walmart briefly evacuated after bomb threat

The investigation is ongoing.

Peninsula Clarion file
Merry voices to fill Kenai chamber

Historical society carolling event returns after hiatus

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
State officials urge vaccination as omicron spreads in US

Omicron was first identified as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization on Nov. 26.

Alaska State Troopers logo.
1 hunter dead, another missing after boat hits rough seas off Whittier

The pair were reportedly hunting on Wednesday on Esther Island in Prince William Sound.

Kenai City Council members James Baisden (left) and Deborah Sounart (right) listen as member Teea Winger (center) speaks in support of legislation opposing government COVID-19 mandates, during a meeting of the Kenai City Council on Wednesday, in Kenai.
Kenai council declares opposition to mask mandates

The statement does not change city code or supersede federal law.

Signage indicates that face masks are required for entry to the Soldotna Public Library on March 25, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. The Soldotna City Council voted Wednesday to make mask-wearing optional in city facilities. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Masks recommended, not required in Soldotna city buildings

Council amends measure to make mask-wearing optional

Nick Begich III, seen here in this undated photo, is challenging Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, for his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives saying Alaska needs new energy in Washington D.C. (Courtesy photo / Alaskans for Nick Begich)
Nick Begich III touts fiscal conservatism in US House race

GOP candidate challenges Young’s record

Sockeye salmon. (Photo via Alaska Department of Fish and Game)
Fish and Game seeks comment on 2022 sport fish stocking plan

The Sport Fish Division plans to release approximately 7 million fish into the Alaska water systems over the next five years.

A map shows which parts of the Chugach National Forest are open to motorized winter recreation use for the 2021-2022 season. (Map courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service)
Parts of Chugach National Forest open to snowmachine use

The 2021-2022 winter motorized season will run through April 30.

Most Read