Board of Regents discuss budget, recognize staff and UA Scholars
by Michelle Saport |
The University of Alaska Board of Regents made use of its June meeting to review options for the university's FY20 operating budget, celebrate the 20th anniversary of the UA Scholars program, receive a report on university efforts to increase educational attainment, begin planning for the 2021 budget, and agreed to reconvene June 19 to make final decisions if the state budgets be finalized by then.
On the budget, UA President Jim Johnsen presented several scenarios for different possible state funding levels, noting that UA must remain flexible to adapt to a still uncertain FY20 appropriation. The legislature and the governor have yet to agree on a state budget, prompting university officials to develop a range of plans.
"The budget uncertainty is very dark and very daunting," Johnsen said, "and the veto risk is very high. This uncertainty creates a difficult challenge for us in our ability to operate and our ability to plan. But the good news is that business and community leaders across the state support the university in very high numbers, and they have made that support known to the legislature, which is looking to restore most of the historically unprecedented budget cut proposed by the governor."
The legislative conference committee has tentatively agreed to a budget of $322 million in unrestricted general funding (UGF) for the University of Alaska. While this represents a $5 million UGF reduction from the current year, it's a significant improvement over the governor's proposed $134 million cut.
With regard to the possibility that the budget stalemate in Juneau continues and there is no approved budget by July 1, the beginning of the budget year, the university is working closely with the governor's Office of Management & Budget, the Department of Law, and the chancellors and other university leaders to prioritize university operations in the case there is no state appropriation.
The university has delayed issuing furlough or layoff notices for a number of reasons including the fact that many university activities are self-supported during the summer, and many other university operations are core to our constitutionally mandated mission or are federally mandated and must continue even in the absence of an appropriation.
"Even if we have a budget in the coming days, we would have mere weeks to implement it," Johnsen said.
The highlights of the meeting included honoring four recipients of the "Staff Make Students Count" awards, presented annually to staff across the UA system who go above and beyond their jobs daily to serve students. Those UA employees honored were: Kelly Foran, Director of TRiO Student Support Services, University of Alaska Anchorage; Jennifer Lu, BLaST Program Coordinator, University of Alaska Fairbanks; Denise Carl, Academic Advisor, University of Alaska Southeast; and, Michael Hostina, the university's General Counsel.
Regents also recognized the 20th Anniversary of the UA Scholars Program in celebration of the 8,900 UA Scholars who have benefited from the merit scholarship since 1999. The UA Scholars Program has transformed higher education in Alaska by rewarding academic achievement and attracting top Alaskan students to the University of Alaska.
Before the program was created, only about 10 percent of the state's top high school graduates choose to attend the University of Alaska. That number is now 41 percent. The $12,000 award encourages students throughout Alaska to attend and graduate from the University of Alaska. Funding is provided by revenue from development of the university's land.
"The program has benefitted nearly 9,000 Alaskans over its 20 year history, and these students-many of whom would have gone outside or not gone on to college at all-are now teachers, lawyers, engineers, and nurses serving Alaskans all across our state," Johnsen said.