Ketchikan Assembly pushes back against proposed University of Alaska Southeast merger

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

Leadership at Ketchikan’s University of Alaska Southeast campus on Monday asked the Ketchikan Gateway Borough to oppose a proposed campus merger.

Priscilla Schulte leads the Ketchikan UAS campus. She says the proposed cost-cutting move to merge UAS with University of Alaska campuses in Anchorage or Fairbanks won’t serve students in Southeast Alaska.

“There’s quite a few problems with merging UAS with UAA and UAF,” she said, “and my biggest concern is that the only way to do it is to make us go away.”

She says that’s because UAS’s total expenditures — including faculty and facility costs — account for about 7% of the total university budget.

Assembly members sympathized with Schulte. Felix Wong pointed to the economic value of the university campus in Ketchikan.

“If we lose the kind of skill set that comes out of the university system, who knows how much more money we lose as a regional community,” he said.

Assembly member David Landis noted that UAS is home to the statewide school of education attended by students across the state.

Member Sven Westergard pointed to the Ketchikan campus as a barrier against brain drain.

“For us to lose it, I think could be detrimental not only to our bottom line, but to our future — keeping kids here,” he said.

The assembly directed the borough manager to send a letter opposing the consolidation proposal.

Southeast Conference, a regional business development group, passed a resolution echoing the assembly’s concerns.

The University of Alaska Board of Regents will take public comment on the merger and other cost-cutting proposals from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 2. Testimony can be provided by phone at (866) 726-0757. 

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