UAS adapts to budget cuts by dropping old programs and launching new ones

The 2015 Governor's Picnic was held at the University of Alaska Southeast. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)
The 2015 Governor’s Picnic held at the University of Alaska Southeast. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

A $6 million cut has made the University of Alaska Southeast reconsider what is really important. UAS is giving up its masters of business administration degree program and some staff positions, but it’s offering a new fisheries and Northwest Coast Arts program.

The University of Alaska Southeast’s budget cut is the result of a near $20 million statewide squeeze on the entire university system. UAS Chancellor Rick Caulfield said the $6 million hit to UAS’ wallet comes with a combination of reduced spending, an increase in costs and re-prioritization at the top.

Officials said they’ve eliminated about 23 positions mostly through attrition. Four people were laid off and three faculty contracts weren’t renewed.

“We’ve worked hard to minimize the impact on our instructional mission and on the student support services so that students will see less of an impact, and if we find savings in any area it will be more in the administrative realm,” Caulfield said.

UAS is also getting rid of at least one degree program. Caulfield said they won’t offer a master’s degree in business administration next school year.

“We did that because our sister institutions to the north at UAA and UAF also offer a master’s in business administration,” Caulfield explained. “We’re having to focus instead on programs where we have the greatest demand and certainly that meet the needs of employers and our communities here in Southeast Alaska.”

Those programs include teacher education, environmental sciences and marine biology.

“We’re also trying to develop our career and technical education programs — especially in mine training, but also in construction technology and diesel technology,” Caulfield said.

Caulfield said UAS is launching a new bachelor’s of science degree program in fisheries with UAF.

UAS also plans to reorganize its art program to focus on Northwest Coast Arts.

“We have great opportunities in Juneau and Sitka and Ketchikan to partner with other organizations that are interested in the economic development of the arts and supporting artists,” Caulfield said.

UAS hired a new faculty member to help expand the art program, he said.

Caulfield added that he wouldn’t be surprised if budget cuts and a reduction in offerings persuade some prospective students to go to school somewhere else. But, he believes affordability and quality will outweigh future students’ worries over studying in Southeast.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated that UAS is adding a new marine biology degree program. It already has a marine biology degree program and is adding a fisheries degree program.

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