University of Alaska Responds to Proposed Budget Cuts
Johnsen says Governor’s deep cuts will devastate UA
FAIRBANKS, AK—Calling Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s $134 million reduction to the University of Alaska’s FY20 operating budget extreme, University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen said that he would have no choice but to propose to the Board of Regents deep cuts for every UA campus including community campuses, major reductions to faculty and staff, and reduction and elimination of educational programs and services across the state.
The Governor’s FY20 budget reduces the state-funded university operating budget by $134 million, or 41 percent, from its current operating budget. This is the largest budget cut in the university’s 100-year history, Johnsen said, and comes on top of state budget cuts in four out of the last five years.
“Cuts at this level cannot simply be managed or accommodated,” he said. “If this budget passes the legislature, it will devastate university programs and services, and the negative effects will be felt in communities across the entire state.”
University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen
According to a 2016 economic impact study done by the McDowell Group of Juneau, the total annual economic impact of UA is estimated to be in excess of $1 billion.
“The university purchases $122 million in goods and services from Alaska vendors; our people buy goods and services from Alaskan businesses; our educational programs prepare a highly skilled, Alaskan grown workforce; our research solves Alaskan problems, supports Alaskan businesses, and generates a 600 percent return on investment; and our graduates earn more money, enjoy better health, and build their lives here in Alaska,“ Johnsen said.
“The impact of this proposed cut will be far greater than the $134 million UGF reduction to the university. It will impact our enrollment, our research, and our philanthropy. This cut, if not reversed by the legislature, will hurt Alaska’s economic competitiveness now and long into the future,” he said.
“In light of the Governor’s budget, our path forward requires two streams of work. The first is advocacy, telling the story of UA’s critical role in our state’s economy and our quality of life. The second, unfortunately, is contingency planning for ‘what if’ the budget is cut as deeply as proposed by the Governor,” he said.
To prepare for contingencies, Johnsen has called an emergency meeting with the chancellors of UAA, UAF and UAS to discuss next steps, review strategic options and, prepare those options for consideration by the Board of Regents at its meeting on Feb 28.
“We are heading into uncharted territory with lots of uncertainty ahead,” Johnsen said, “but we will stay focused on what is certain — that UA is a critical part of our state, that our students come first in everything we do, and that we must all pull in the same direction in service to Alaska’s future,” he said.
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The Alaska Marine Lifeline
The current conversation Alaskans are having was spurred by Governor Mike Dunleavy’s initial budget proposal for 2020, which would cut funding to the AMHS by 75 percent and essentially end most operations by October.