University of Alaska president: Budget cuts, possible consolidation won’t affect accreditation

The University of Alaska Southeast campus in Juneau, shown on July 25, 2019 (Photo by David Purdy/KTOO)

In the wake of a $25 million cut this year, and another $45 million cut anticipated the next two years, the University of Alaska is considering some campus consolidation.

UA President Jim Johnsen concluded the first day of presentations at the Southeast Conference in Sitka with a university update. Currently, the university consists of three accredited institutions and 16 campuses.

“We will remain an accredited university. Period. End of report,” Johnsen said. “So if anybody says that’s gonna threaten accreditation, no, we’re not going to do anything that would threaten our accreditation. It’s not negotiable. Even if we have increased consolidation, there will be people where the students are.”

Johnsen said a group of 13 teams would be looking into restructuring options of all of the academic programs, and they would present their findings to the university’s board of regents. But regardless of exactly what the institution looks like in the future, Johnsen said one thing was certain.

University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen appears on an episode of Forum@360 in Juneau on April 3, 2018.

University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

“What’s certain is we will need to reduce our costs and programs and people will be cut. What’s certain is we’re going to go through a rational process for making those decisions,” said Johnsen. “What’s certain is that the students in those programs are going to be taught out, they’re going to be taken care of, and we have a record of accomplishing that.”

There’s been no consolidation of campuses in the system since 1988. Even without budget cuts, integration has been a recurring topic of discussion.

Johnsen said a recent survey of the university community was divided right down the middle when it came to campus integration.

“Fifty-fifty split between increased uniqueness and increased integration. Fifty-fifty split. You wouldn’t know that if you went to the regents meeting, because it was all 100% uniqueness.”

One quarter of the nearly 4,000 people surveyed were students. Johnsen said this demographic most favored more campus integration.

The annual meeting of the Southeast Conference runs through Friday in Sitka.

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