'This is a big hit:' UA says Dunleavy cuts would close campuses
University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen is predicting dire consequences, if a $134 million cut to the UA system in Gov. Mike Dunleavy's proposed budget goes through.
"I'm confident we will need to close campuses if this cut makes it all the way through the legislative process," said Johnsen. "We will need to eliminate a lot of programs, we will reduce services, no question about that."
The cut would wipe out 41 percent of the University's current budget. Johnsen said an estimated 1,300 UA employees would lose their jobs.
University of Alaska Anchorage Chancellor Cathy Sandeen found the news sobering.
"This is a big hit, especially when we are told that it will result in massive cuts and job losses. That's hard for people to hear," Sandeen said.
It may be even harder to hear at UAA where students and staff are frustrated over several School of Education programs' recent loss of accreditation. Sandeen said she hoped the proposed cuts wouldn't stop UAA from applying for reaccreditation if UA's Board of Regents allows it.
"I feel very strongly," Sandeen said. "We are the largest university, in the largest city with the largest school district, and we produce the most teachers. To cut that back because of a budget cut would really be harming the municipality and the state of Alaska."
But Johnsen said everything is on the table when it comes to the proposed cuts. He had no doubt that students would have fewer choices.
"If these cuts take place there will be fewer programs, " he said. "We we will do our best to maintain top-quality programs, but there will be fewer."
Over the coming weeks UA officials will be meeting regularly to discuss the university system's core mission. After that, Johnsen said, they'll put a price tag on current programs and go from there to see what stays and what goes.
One thing UAA Chancellor Sandeen said she hoped would not be cut are the school's athletic programs.
"We believe that athletics and academics go hand in hand, its very important, she said. " It's the connection many community members make to the university. So while everything is on the table, for me, we want to look at that very closely. (Also) it's part of that student experience that I want to promise the high school seniors who are considering becoming Seawolves."
Right now, Johnsen said, nothing is certain save that the university system will continue to operate.
"We have a responsibility to Alaska so we are going to have to think about what could we be 10 years out, even with these terrible cuts," he said.
Johnsen will be meeting with university chancellors on Monday in Fairbanks to strategize. The Board of Regents will begin discussions at its next meeting on Feb. 28.
UAA students and staff are meeting Friday at the Gorsuch Commons from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. to talk about the impact of possible cuts.
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