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UA Regents head to Juneau

UA Regents' meeting to focus on tuition, career and technical education and community campus study The University of Alaska Board of Regents will consider tuition rates and a resolution supporting a new statewide career and technical education plan when the group meets next week in Juneau. The 11-member governing board for the UA System also will hear a report about the economic and social impacts of the system's community campuses at the meeting. The two-day meeting will start at 8 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 23, at the University of Alaska Southeast student recreation center near Auke Bay. Board members expect the tuition discussion will draw a crowd.

New this year is the board's decision to provide student government leaders extra time on the agenda to make a statewide presentation about UA tuition rates and how they affect students. Individuals not associated with that presentation also may speak to the board on the subject during a public testimony period each day.

"The board clearly wants to hear from students, and regents felt the most efficient way was through the student representative form of government," said Board Chair Cynthia Henry. "The invitation for a student presentation goes beyond what the regents' typical agenda provides, as it's in addition to public testimony."

Some students had asked the board to allow testimony from different locations across the state through audio or video conference, but board members agreed they want to continue the tradition of giving priority to the host campus and community, as during all other meetings.

"We've always honored the communities we're in by hearing from the host communities and campuses, and the board would like to continue on that path," Henry said. "Allowing the student government leaders to have their own presentation is a good compromise."

The tuition proposal up for consideration is two-pronged.

First, it would increase 100- and 200-level courses starting with the fall 2011 school year by an additional 5 percent from previously approved rates.

Second, in fall 2012, tuition rates for all levels (100-400) except graduate would increase an additional 10 or 12 percent. If approved, rates for the 2011-2012 school year would be an additional $8 per credit for 100-200 level courses.

For the 2012-2013 school year, tuition would increase between $16-$19 per credit for lower division and $19-$22 per credit for upper division courses, depending on which rate the board endorses (10 or 12 percent).

For a student taking 30 credits for the year, the increase would result in an additional $525 to $615 annually, depending on the credit load, mix of classes and which rate the board approves.

UA's tuition rates are low compared to the rest of the nation (44 out of 50 states) as well as the 15 Western states. Tuition revenue makes up roughly 11 percent of UA's overall budget, which includes a mix of state and federal funds as well. State general funds make up about 45 percent of the UA System's overall budget; however, the Alaska Legislature has indicated it would like the university to rely less on the state treasury.

Regents also will have an early look at the FY12 budget request, which must be submitted to the governor by mid-December. The board won't vote on the budget until November.

Also on the board's agenda is an overview of the multi-agency Alaska Career and Technical Education Plan (http://www.eed.state.ak.us/tls/CTE/docs/CTE_State_Plan.pdf). The plan outlines a comprehensive, integrated career and technical education system that aligns training programs and coordinates delivery among various entities. The goal is to prepare citizens for careers in Alaska. UA is a partner in the plan along with the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development and the state Department of Education and Early Development. 

Labor Commissioner Click Bishop and Education Commissioner Larry LeDoux will present the plan to the board along with UA President Pat Gamble. Another interesting report is a recent McDowell Group review of the social and economic impacts of UA's 13 community campuses, which together serve nearly 13,000 students across the state. Community campuses are part of the university system in Alaska, a unique arrangement compared to many other states. 

UA's community campuses awarded 700 degrees and certificates during the year of the study; two-thirds were associate degrees (two-year degrees) and just over 30 percent were certificates. The economic impacts of the community campuses, including payroll and campus spending in numerous towns, are significant. 

UA's community campuses together employ about 1,140 people across the state with a combined $54.7 million payroll. Total direct spending by the campuses of $82 million created an estimated $39 million in indirect economic activity, resulting in a total economic activity of nearly $121 million.

The report highlights the importance of "place-based education," or delivering education to students where and when they need it. Read the report along with other matters up for discussion at the Sept. 23 & 24 meeting at www.alaska.edu/bor.

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