'We haven't made up our mind': UA Board of Regents ponder university consolidation
On Friday the University of Alaska Board of Regents voted unanimously, 11-0, on a new directive paving the way for the board to prepare for various options when it comes down to institutional accreditation.
"There was an instruction that the president wants us to come back with a plan that considered a single accreditation," Regent Chair John Davies said. "There was some I think misunderstanding that that meant that other things weren't still under consideration. So that vote was just to clarify that, that we want to do that and consider the other options."
The university system was originally facing a $135 million cut that sparked the board to look at all options to help absorb the cuts. One option was a transition to a single institutional accreditation done over one academic year. However, the budget situation has changed dramatically since late July.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy backed off the significant cut and instead agreed to a $25 million reduction this year, another $25 million cut next year and a $20 million cut the following year. The change has many people asking the board to keep the UA system the way it is.
"The fact of the matter is it's not your fault," said University of Alaska Anchorage law professor Clayton Trotter. "It's not even the governor's fault. It's an enormous market adjustment that happened to be made and I don't envy your difficulties."
Clayton said the state was able to survive drastic cuts in the 1980s.
"I'm here primarily because we are in the business of changing lives," Clayton said. "You guys hold the lives of literally thousands and thousands of students in your hands and I would implore you not to act in haste."
UAA student Alex Jorgensen told the board that students have weathered financial cuts for the past five years.
"Obviously there's something wrong with our university structure," Jorgensen said. "I don't think anyone will disagree with that. We need to change and we need to change now. But we're being told that this is the only path forward."
Jorgensen says students already feel like they are at the end of the process and there is a big disconnect between them and the board.
"So while we've been experiencing these massive budget reductions and while we've been handling it locally," Jorgensen said. "With a combination of consolidating back office functions like HR and procurement and things like that, we've been able to be successful and actually advance our mission here at UAA. Yet, we are being told that is not an option."
Davies says it is an option and everything is on the table. Both the single accreditation, accreditation for all three campuses and hybrid models are up for discussion.
"We haven't made up our mind yet," Davies said. "We're still trying to collect data on what these things would look like before we start down a particular path."
The next board meeting is Nov. 7. After that, the board will present their option to the governor and legislation on Dec. 1.
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