UA President: No program is safe after massive Dunleavy budget cuts
The largest line item veto Gov. Mike Dunleavy enacted Friday was a $130 million cut to the University of Alaska.
UA President Jim Johnsen said that's a 41% reduction in state funding and more than twice what the university anticipated.
Following the announcement, the University’s Board of Regents held an emergency meeting.
Johnsen said while the priority is to override the veto, he's implementing hiring and travel freezes. He also said a furlough notice will go out immediately to inform staff that in 60 days they will be on leave without pay status.
Should the governor’s veto go through, Johnsen says the university will be forced to declare financial exigency, allowing the board to expedite reductions, make changes to employee contracts and shorten notice periods.
“If however this veto goes forward and is not overridden, students will be impacted, faculty will be impacted, staff will be as well,” Johnson said. “A preliminary rough estimate is that we would need to reduce 1,300 faculty and staff across the university system.”
Cathy Sandeen, chancellor at the University of Alaska Anchorage, said the cuts will have a huge impact on the state's largest campus.
"I like to use the analogy of a tree or a shrub. Instead of just trimming around the edges, we need to go in and cut branches so what that possibly could mean is that some academic programs are no longer offered here in order to be sure that the ones that are offered here are strong,” she said.
Echoing the Board of Regents' message, Sandeen said UAA is going full force into advocacy mode, in hopes of convincing lawmakers to override the cuts. She also urged families to reach out to their representatives.
"University of Alaska Anchorage is still an extraordinary value in higher education and I think families are recognizing that. I would say to the families who have really been watching us grow, watching us improve, you are a constituent of elected officials and these families can go and make their opinions known that this cut is too draconian and that it will affect the future of their children who want to stay in the state. That would be an extraordinarily powerful message for our elected officials to hear,” she said.
She didn't give specifics on what programs are in danger of elimination, but shared examples of programs that are more likely to be spared, those include the health and engineering programs.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy said the university of Alaska line item veto will primarily impact the Anchorage and Fairbanks universities, and that funding for all community campuses, including the University of Alaska Southeast, remains intact.
“I do believe the University of Alaska is resilient. I believe they have good leadership and I’d say give them a chance," the governor said. "I believe that they can turn the university into a smaller, leaner, but still very, very positive productive university here in the northern hemisphere.”
UA’s Board of Regents call the proposed cuts historically unprecedented. Johnsen says no athletic or academic programs are safe.
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