University of Alaska regents cut 39 programs across the system

State cuts and COVID mean big changes at UA

The University of Alaska Board of Regents voted last Friday to eliminate 39 degree programs across the university system at a full meeting held telephonically. The cuts are meant to save the university $25 million as it looks to meet reductions under a compact signed with Gov. Mike Dunleavy last year.

“The word ‘uncertainty’ has been the word of the day,” Board Chair Sherry Buretta said at the close of the meeting. “Change is happening; we’re working through a difficult situation.”

Most of the programs cut came from the University of Alaska Anchorage and Fairbanks, while only two programs were cut from University of Alaska Southeast. Most of the programs were cut by a single vote, but after lengthy debate led by student Regent Cachet Garrett calling for individual consideration of programs, 13 were voted on individually, according to UA spokesperson Roberta Graham.

University of Alaska board votes for study on University of Alaska Southeast merger

Programs that were cut were chosen from a larger list of programs previously selected by university administrators. In addition to the cut programs, there was one program merger, four slated for reductions and two postponed for consideration until Jan. 2021, according to UA documents. Thirteen of the cut programs had previously been suspended, some of them as early as 2013, according to the documents.

The programs to be cut from UAS were a Bachelor of Science degree in geography and environmental resources and an Associate of Applied Science welding and nondestructive testing degree program that was cut from all three universities.

Some of these programs will remain long enough, up to four years, for currently enrolled students to complete their degrees.

“Recognizing not everyone’s going to be happy, we are looking at a $70 million cut over three years,” said UAS Chancellor Rick Caulfield. “This has been part of a program review process, we have looked very carefully at the programs and the modest numbers of students in them.”

Regents Thursday voted to conduct an in-depth study to merge the university with UAF, a move deeply opposed in public comments submitted to the Regents in days before the meeting. City and Borough of Juneau and Southeast Conference also voiced opposition to a potential merger.

“No decision has been made about that, we are planning for our fall and spring semesters,” Caulfield said of the merger. “The board simply asked for a study of whether that is a wise idea.”

That study is due to the regents Oct. 15, and Caulfield said he expected regents to make a decision at their November meeting.

“UA will not pay $6.5 million in planned pay raises, will institute pay cuts for 166 executives through mandatory furloughs, and cut millions in systemwide administrative costs,” UA stated in a news release. “Of the $33 million in FY21 budget reductions, more than $4 million is in academics program reductions and $29 million is in administration and other areas.”

Contact reporter Peter Segall at Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnoEmpire.