UA engineering and other projects top regents’ meeting
The University of Alaska Board of Regents is expected to take action later this week on a long-awaited plan that would, if approved, improve conditions and facilities for engineering students. The 11-member board meets on the University of Alaska Southeast campus Sept. 22-23, with public testimony taken at 10 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 22 and again at 9 a.m. Friday, Sept. 23. The meeting will be at the UAS Student Recreation Center. The board’s endorsement of the engineering plan is the first step in a multi-stage process that could ultimately lead to new facilities at UAA and UAF, though funding isn’t being requested yet. The Alaska Legislature provided UA with $8 million in planning and design money for facilities on both campuses in FY11. An additional $119 million in state funds would be needed in the future for UAA to build its project, which includes not only new construction but also renovation of vacated space because of the project and associated facilities that would be needed, such as parking and utilities. For UAF, the total “all-in” costs would be $95 million in state funds for new construction, renovation of vacated space, parking and utilities. The UA Engineering Plan reflects a new internal process that’s aimed at producing realistic cost estimates. The plan also considers other aspects of improving the engineering programs, such as reducing dropout rates and the amount of time it takes to reach graduation. It also considers that engineering program enrollment, which has been climbing rapidly, is expected to level off. Recommendations for graduate and two-year pre-engineering programs and how they fit into the mix also are part of the engineering plan. The plan addresses controlling program costs, making the most of internships, providing continuing education for Alaska’s working engineers and other aspects of the program for a comprehensive approach. Engineering enrollment and graduation on both campuses has increased dramatically over the years. The Board of Regents set a goal to double the number of engineering graduates several years ago, which UA is on track to meet by 2014. Alaska’s demand for engineers in construction, mining and the oil and gas sectors outpaces the university’s supply, even with the increase in engineering graduates. The plan will, however, fill more of the local demand with Alaska-trained engineers, which employers prefer. Also up for the board’s consideration is an Associate of Applied Science degree in paramedicine at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The packed September agenda will, for the first time, be a digital one, rather than printed on paper and mailed to board members. Board agenda materials have been available online for years, but the university continued to print and mail materials to regents and staff members. Last year, those costs exceeded $12,500. The cost of laptop computers for board members, at $7,500, is expected to save the university money while reducing paper usage. The laptops will last three to five years. Staff will use existing laptops. Other matters that will come before the board include refined design approvals, called schematic design, for funded projects the board already endorsed at an earlier stage. These include wellness center improvements at Prince William Sound Community College in Valdez; the new sports arena at the University of Alaska Anchorage; the new career and technical education center and student housing projects at Kenai Peninsula College; and a classroom addition at Mat-Su College. Alaska voters approved those projects as part of a statewide general obligation bond last year. Other agenda items include a reaffirmation of a joint doctoral degree in clinical-community psychology at UAA and UAF; endorsement of a plan to spend $37.5 million on deferred maintenance projects across the UA System, which the legislature and governor funded last year; a bond sale, of which $50 million will be directed at deferred maintenance projects; an early look at draft capital and operating budgets for FY13; a revision to the mission statement for Prince William Sound Community College; and resolutions of appreciation for attorney Roger Brunner, who is retiring as UA’s general counsel next month, and Wendy Redman, a 40-year employee who recently retired as executive vice president. Members of the public are invited to a community reception hosted by UAS Chancellor John Pugh. The reception will be from 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22, in the Mourant Cafeteria at the Auke Lake campus. For a complete look at the board’s agenda, go to www.alaska.edu/bor/. For more information call Kate Ripley at 907/450-8102 or 907/388-3506.