University of Alaska students may see 10 percent tuition hike over next two years

UA President Jim Johnsen (Photo by Adelyn Baxter/KTOO)

UA President Jim Johnsen. (Photo by Adelyn Baxter/KTOO)

University of Alaska officials are considering a 5 percent tuition increase in each of the next two academic years.

UA has seen its tuition steadily increase over the last several years, including a 5 percent increase last year.

Colby Freel chairs the Coalition of Student Leaders. He said increases like this have become an expectation for UA students, but that they understand the strain the state and university are under.

“We want our education here in Alaska, we want to receive the quality learning that we get, so we’re willing to pay for it,” Freel said. 

The university has seen state funding decline by $61 million since 2014 and enrollment drop by 14 percent since 2011. Among the austerity measures, the university has cut about 50 academic programs and reduced faculty and staff by more than 900 positions.

The University of Alaska Board of Regents discussed the tuition increase during its meeting that wrapped Friday in Juneau. The board’s final vote on tuition is expected at its November meeting.

The board also discussed Strategic Pathways, the massive plan to restructure and save money amid ongoing budget uncertainty in Alaska.

UA President Jim Johnsen has spent the better part of the last year meeting with staff, faculty, students and community members to figure out what needs to happen to cut costs while maintaining quality.

“How do we serve the state effectively as our budgets are being cut by the state?” Johnsen said at the meeting. “How do we step up in workforce development, how do we step up in research and economic development and diversification and building a culture of education in Alaska? How do we achieve those goals in this very challenging context?”   

The final recommendations on Strategic Pathways will be presented to the board for a vote in November.

Regents also approved a $50,000 compensation bonus for Johnsen on top of his $325,000 base salary after evaluating his performance and approving his employment contract. Johnsen said the bonus will be donated back to the university through student development and cultural initiatives.

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