JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The University of Alaska plans to eliminate or suspend a number of majors this year to deal with an ongoing budgetary squeeze on the state’s public universities.
The university system has slated 31 academic programs for removal, including 21 at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
“Sometimes having three of something isn’t as good as having one strong something,” UA president candidate Jim Johnsen told the Juneau Empire.
The university system has $15 million less to work with this fiscal year. The legislature slashed its budget by 4 percent to help make up the state’s multibillion-dollar deficit.
But state employees were also promised a 2.5 percent pay raise this year. Half of that will be paid through state general funds but the university system has to cover the rest, said University of Alaska Southeast Vice Chancellor Michael Ciri.
“So unless we can show that we can earn more money, it’s always a budget cut,” he said.
He said UAS will need to make up from an approximately $1.6 million reduction this year. It plans to eliminate four programs over the next few years: its master’s of business administration, its associate degree in automotive power technology, its residential building science certificate and its pre-engineering certificate.
UAS has also suspended admission to its arts program.
Students currently enrolled in the changing programs will be able to finish their coursework and ear their degrees, even if new students are not admitted.
Ciri says the programs chosen by UAS are not entirely related to the budgetary issues. The school is also adding three new academic programs this year and working on an undergraduate fisheries degree.
University of Alaska Anchorage’s certificates in massage therapy, pharmacy technology and paralegal studies and its master’s degree in computer science are on the chopping block.
Meanwhile, the University of Alaska Fairbanks has proposed eliminating six programs, including its undergraduate sociology program and its master’s degree in music. Six other programs have suspended enrollment, including dental hygiene.
UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers and Provost Susan Henrichs wrote in April that the programs because of low enrollment, decreased enrollment or low graduation rates.
The UAF program reviews are “absolutely a facet of the budget climate,” UAF spokeswoman Marmian Grimes said. “There were certainly more” than in years past.