In this file photo from Sept. 15, 2016, University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen makes a presentation to the university’s Board of Regents at the University of Alaska Southeast Recreation Center. Johnsen and the UA board discussed tuition increases and budget concerns Friday. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

In this file photo from Sept. 15, 2016, University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen makes a presentation to the university’s Board of Regents at the University of Alaska Southeast Recreation Center. Johnsen and the UA board discussed tuition increases and budget concerns Friday. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

University of Alaska tuition to stay put for now

Board of Regents votes to delay decision on 5% increase

University of Alaska isn’t raising tuition — at least not yet.

The UA Board of Regents voted unanimously during an all-day Friday meeting in Fairbanks to delay voting on a 5% tuition hike until either January or a special meeting.

Regent Karen Perdue, who made the motion, said it was to allow time for additional dialogue with students, “who have made some really excellent points with their questions.”

Students made passionate cases against the proposed increase during public comment session that lasted more than two hours.

[Empire live: Concerns raised about budget and tuition during meeting]

“Every tuition increase, we lose students,” said Tuan Graziano, Union of Students at the University of Alaska Anchorage Assembly Speaker of the Assembly Pro Tempore. “I think it’s critically important that you take the time to look at what these tuition increases will cost, not in terms of revenue, but in terms of students. We are going to be a shadow of our former selves if this keeps happening.”

When the board of regents discussed the possible increase, UA President Jim Johnsen was asked about possibly delaying the decision.

Johnsen said it would delay notifying students of a tuition increase, if one is ultimately approved. Chancellors for UAA, University of Alaska Fairbanks and University of Alaska Southeast said a decision by January would likely provide enough time to make sure accurate numbers are available to prospective students.

A 5% tuition increase would be expected to generate an additional $7 million for UA, Johnsen said. Both Johnsen and Perdue drew a direct line between losing that potential revenue with losing 70 UA positions.

That means static tuition could be good news for students and bad news for employees.

“It’s a zero sum game in some ways,” Perdue said.

Johnsen said he understood students concerns, but there aren’t many ways for UA to make up for the $25 million in reduced state funding that’s expected next fiscal year as part of a compact with Gov. Mike Dunleavy. The compact led to an agreed upon $70 million cut over three years instead of a $136 million cut in one year.

The budget request unanimously approved by regents was in line with that compact, and $277 million in unrestricted general fund money — down from $302 million from the current fiscal year — was approved.

So too was a $50 million request for the UA capital budget.

A chart included in the meeting packet showed UA has asked for that amount every year since 2010 and never received more than $45 million. Last year, UA received $5 million.

University of Alaska
                                This screenshot of a graph included in the budget request approved Friday by the University of Alaska Board of Regents shows the history of UA’s capital budget requests and the funding its received.

University of Alaska This screenshot of a graph included in the budget request approved Friday by the University of Alaska Board of Regents shows the history of UA’s capital budget requests and the funding its received.

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