Last year, the University of Alaska System (UA) faced catastrophic and crippling budget cuts. While the governor and Board of Regents ratcheted back the worst of what was proposed with the compact agreement, Alaska’s universities must still face the startling reality of losing $70 million over three years while maintaining the quality of education that Alaskans deserve.
To implement these cuts, the Board of Regents directed the three university chancellors to undertake expedited reviews of our academic programs and administrative structures to identify areas where we can create savings and efficiencies. As chancellor, I always first look to administrative cuts, but the budget cuts imposed on UAA and its sister institutions are substantial and more than administrative reductions could cover. Therefore, the regents specifically directed the chancellors to consider academic programs as part of these reductions. This means that in order to ensure the university’s long-term viability and still provide top quality academic offerings, UAA will offer fewer academic majors while continuing to reduce administration.
At the University of Alaska Anchorage, we have not entered into this process lightly. We see value in each of our academic programs and realize that the people of the state rely on UAA and our sister institutions to provide the talent and training to power our economy. Therefore, we are leaning heavily on qualitative and quantitative data about all of our academic programs and are looking at each program’s centrality to the mission of the university while measuring overall productivity, efficiency and demand in terms of workforce needs and interests. In the end, none of these decisions are easy, but we are making them in as fair and equitable a way as possible to maintain the heart of the UAA academic experience.
I want to reassure our community that the majority of certificates and degrees offered by UAA will continue to be available and that we will uphold the academic rigor and quality that Alaskans know and trust. We will have comprehensive advising available for all students in an affected program as well as degree completion options, where necessary.
The initial steps of the expedited review process are complete and those interested in more detail can visit our regularly updated expedited program review website. Preliminary recommendations for programs to discontinue are complete, and feedback sessions with faculty, staff, students and external stakeholders will include formal listening sessions in mid-March. After considering all factors, I will deliver UAA’s final recommendations to President Johnsen and the Board of Regents at the end of March. The board will have until June to make the final call on the recommendations from each university.
These have been challenging months for the University of Alaska system and for UAA. Our unrelenting focus on the higher education needs of our students, our state and on the fulfillment of our mission have driven our decision-making. This will not change, even as we face difficult decisions ahead.
• Cathy Sandeen is chancellor of University of Alaska Anchorage.