University regents decide to put the brakes on campus merger plan for UAS

University of Alaska Southeast’s Juneau campus on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. (Photo by Quinton Chandler/KTOO)

University of Alaska regents have put the brakes on a plan to merge University of Alaska Southeast programs in Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka into either the Anchorage or Fairbanks operations.

The cost saving proposal has drawn major criticism since being introduced by President Jim Johnsen last week. University of Alaska spokesperson Robbie Graham says during a meeting Thursday regents voted to delay action, in favor of a motion by regent Dale Anderson of Juneau to instead conduct an in-depth analysis of merging UAS and University of Alaska Fairbanks programs, while “maintaining the unique identity and environment of each institution.”

Graham said that investigation will include looking at the proposals they’ve received from organizations, most notably an idea from the Sealaska Corporation to transfer the University of Alaska Southeast to a regional tribal college.

Graham says the review, which will take place over the next 4 to 6 months, will involve input from a wide range of on and off campus stakeholders.

Regents also approved a budget for the upcoming new fiscal year, a spending plan which includes staff layoffs, and executive furloughs, suspends pay increases, and eliminates 50 academic programs.

Graham says the $832 million budget is $25 million less than the current year, the same amount state funding is being reduced, under a compact between regents and Governor Mike Dunleavy. The budget also includes $24 million in COVID-19 related costs, a hit Graham says is being covered with a draw from savings.

Graham says regents spent two hours of Thursday’s meeting in executive session to talk about the possible departure of President Jim Johnsen, who is the sole finalist to become president of the University of Wisconsin.

Regents meet again Friday, and Graham says one of the agenda items is the 50 academic programs slated for elimination. She says regents will be going over motions made by the academic and student affairs committee and could rescind some of the deletions.

Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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