UAA will use its mission-alignment review to inform looming tough budget choices

by Kathleen McCoy  |   

UAA campus leaders say they'll use findings from the 18-month prioritization process to set the future course for the state's largest university. They also say that, in light of the state's precipitous drop in oil revenue and subsequent ability to support the university, insights gleaned from the prioritization process will inform the tough decisions ahead.

Find links below to the relevant reports, a schedule of open forums to learn more and to review some of the local news coverage.

Focus on mission alignment

Never intended as a cost-cutting exercise, prioritization review by faculty and staff was aimed at measuring how well programs and functions align with the university's mission-that is, to serve students and the state of Alaska. The subsequent reports identify which programs or services are out of date; which are duplicated elsewhere; or which are under-resourced and warrant enhancement.

To recap, two task forces ranked 313 academic programs and 178 support functions according to their alignment with UAA's mission. Next, the Chancellor and the Cabinet looked even more closely at programs and functions ranked for transformation or review.

UAA's effort was modeled on the process outlined in "Prioritizing Academic Programs and Services," by Robert Dickeson, a president emeritus and renowned higher education consultant. It encouraged a well-thought-out change-management approach that recognized the roles of faculty, administration and staff.

Samuel Gingerich, UAA's interim provost, likened the work to a process almost anyone can relate to: a thorough but over due house cleaning.

Expressing satisfaction with the diligent work by staff and faculty, Chancellor Tom Case said the prioritization process showed that the university has much to be proud of. "Regardless," he wrote in a memo to the UAA community, "some programs and functions need to evolve, consolidate, contract or partner for efficiency. Some need to go away."

Looming state budget crisis

Timing has proven significant. When UAA began prioritization well over a year ago, oil was selling at more than $100 a barrel. Today, it has plummeted to less than $50 a barrel. Because of this precipitous drop in state income, UAA faces significant declining support from the state. While the prioritization effort realized savings of about $1 million to $2 million, budget declines next year could require the institution to manage a steeper shortfall, between $15 million to $18 million.

To come to terms with UAA's new reality, Chancellor Case and the Cabinet have tapped the college deans to identify programs and services that can be sustained over the next three to five years, supported by reduced revenue projections of $25 million to $30 million. The deans also have been charged with developing strategies to reach this equilibrium while protecting and even enhancing mission-critical programs and functions.

Examples of prioritization recommendations

On the academic side of the house, significant program modifications trigger an "expedited review process." This process must follow Board of Regents Policy and Regulation 10.06. The review process will be designed by the chancellor and provost and submitted to the president for approval. Leaders expect this effort to be complete by May 1, 2015.

Examples of academic program recommendations include:

  • Increasing space for the dental hygiene and culinary arts programs.
  • Adding teaching positions in Russian, French and philosophy programs.
  • Revising or eliminating graduate programs in engineering management and science management due to  low enrollment and duplication.

On the support service, or function, side of the university, recommendations include:

  • By June 30, developing a business plan for the Alaska Quarterly Review to eliminate the literary journal's dependence on university funding.
  • Locating academic advising for first- and second-year students in a central hub by June 30.
  • Creating a task force to increase the efficiency of the university's IT services.

Open forums

The university has maintained a standard of transparency throughout the prioritization process. Now that the Chancellor and the Cabinet have issued their findings, the UAA community is invited to attend open forums to air questions and seek clarification. Sessions began Friday, Feb. 6 and continued Monday and Tuesday, Feb. 9-10. Sessions still available include:

  • Wednesday, Feb. 11, 10:30 a.m.-noon 
UAA/APU Consortium Library, Room
  • Wednesday, Feb. 11, 3:30-5 p.m.
 UAA/APU Consortium Library, Room 307
  • Thursday, Feb. 12, 1:30-3 p.m. 
UAA/APU Consortium Library, Room 307
  • Friday, Feb. 13, 3:30-5 p.m.
 Rasmuson Hall, Room 101

Links to reports

Those interested in learning more about the prioritization process and findings will find these links useful:

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