University of Alaska president: Campus closures, program elimination and layoffs on the table under Dunleavy vetoes

University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen appears on an episode of Forum@360 in Juneau on April 3, 2018. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

The University of Alaska stands to lose $134 million in state funding if Governor Mike Dunleavy’s line-item vetoes are not overturned by legislators.

After the Legislature failed to override the vetoes this afternoon, UA president Jim Johnsen said that the UA Board of Regents will meet on Monday to discuss the option of financial exigency.

“Nobody — any employee of the University of Alaska — is safe in that sense. I’m certainly not, nor is anyone else, per se,” Johnsen said. “Financial exigency gives us the contractual ability to lay off tenured faculty and others in an expedited manner.”

Johnsen says layoffs would’ve been expected even under the $5 million dollar proposed cut from the Legislature. Johnsen anticipates about 2,000 layoffs under the governor’s vetoes. The university has already sent furlough notices to 2,500 staff and faculty.

In addition to layoffs, Johnsen says campus closures are a possibility, as well as closing and consolidating programs.

“We’re looking at programs, colleges and schools, where we have more than one of them,” Johnsen said. “So if we have two colleges of ‘fill in the blank,’ do we eliminate one of them and go with one? Those are all options on the table.”

Governor Dunleavy’s vetoes have also raised concerns over campus academic accreditation. Earlier this week, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities wrote a letter to the Legislature stating that the governor’s vetoes run the risk of diminishing the quality of education and jeopardizing the university’s chances of reaccreditation.

“It is a risk that we are going to do almost everything we can to avoid,” Johnsen said.

There is still a chance that lawmakers will reconvene in Juneau to vote on overriding the vetoes again. If the governor’s vetoes stand, the next step will be for the Board of Regents to vote on financial exigency next Monday.

Wesley Early covers Anchorage life and city politics for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at and follow him on X at @wesley_early. Read more about Wesley here.

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