UAS coping with budget cuts

UAS is facing a 1.9 million dollar shortfall this fiscal year. (Photo by Heather Bryant/KTOO)

UAS is facing a $1.9 million shortfall this fiscal year. (Photo by Heather Bryant/KTOO)

The University of Alaska Southeast is facing a $1.3 million state budget cut this fiscal year, and a total shortfall of $1.9 million that may lead to layoffs.

Michael Ciri, interim vice chancellor for UAS, says the university plans to absorb most of the cuts by closing open positions, reducing janitorial staff, eliminating positions after employees retire and delaying certain projects.

“I don’t want to say UAS is somehow immune from layoffs during this process,” Ciri says.

However, management at the student recreation center is being restructured, which will likely lead to layoffs. The goal is to save money, not reduce the number of employees, Ciri says.

“How many people are on the payroll today and how many people are on the payroll tomorrow, that number might actually be the same number,” he says.

Personnel who are let go may apply for new positions at UAS created as a result of the reorganization.

The university system is also facing a drop in college enrollment, which means less tuition. The number of graduating high school seniors in Alaska peaked in the 2008-2009 school year and isn’t expected to rebound until the 2020s, says university system spokeswoman Kate Ripley.

UAS plans to attract more students to its university to offset the shortfall, Ciri says. It is building a new dormitory as part of a plan to make the campus more attractive to prospective students.

The University of Alaska system is also creating initiatives to attract students. It’s working with Alaska industries, such as fishing, to attract in-state students. It is also trying to draw out-of-state students by offering in-state tuition rates to out-of-state students with relatives in Alaska.

The University of Alaska system as a whole has a $15.9 million state budget cut this fiscal year. University of Alaska Fairbanks will see a $7.6 million reduction; it plans to lay off at least 40 people.

The University of Alaska Anchorage was cut $5.8 million.

Alaska has the second highest funding per full-time student in the nation, according to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.

Amid the cuts, UA President Pat Gamble was offered a six-figure bonus to stay in his position until 2016.

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