With budget deadline looming, UAA works on cuts for coming fiscal year

Published: Oct. 1, 2020 at 6:27 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - At schools across the country, most college students are still utilizing online learning, and at the same time, the University of Alaska system continues to grapple with its next steps as it seeks to close a multi-million dollar budget gap.

Here in Anchorage, the University of Alaska Anchorage has been left figuring out who and what to cut, and when.

UAA Chancellor Cathy Sandeen said Wednesday that, in the end, UAA will be smaller and more focused. Cuts remain challenging, she said, but the school intends to follow through on its promise of slashing a large portion of the $70 million the system overall committed to cut, following reduced financial support from the state. However, even after the recent elimination of four different sports programs, UAA has around $5 million of operation costs to remove for the coming fiscal year.

“Whatever we do, we want to minimize the impact on students as much as we possibly can," Sandeen said. “And we’re not just pulling numbers out of a hat; we’re really looking at the data.”

This time, as UAA cuts its share of the system-wide reduction - as agreed upon in August of 2019 - its chancellor said the plan is to avoid programming, and instead, try to make changes at the administrative level to make things work.

“When we do these budget reductions, it is going to affect certain people," Sandeen said. "The biggest component is salaries and benefits - people - and when we cut, we’re eliminating positions.”

The reconfiguration of four sports programs, including hockey, gymnastics and men’s and women’s alpine skiing, was approved by University of Alaska Board of Regents' on Sept. 10.

The three-year period includes fiscal years ’20, ’21 and ’22, with the coming year being the last one for UA to meet the approved $70 million mark.

Navigating the future poses a challenge for everyone involved, but Sandeen said she still has high hopes for a good outcome in the end, and perhaps even flat funding in fiscal years ahead.

“We still have excellent programs," she said. "We’re also doing it in a strategic way that is maintaining demands in the workforce, so we’re focusing on the needs of Alaska as we go through that. It’s difficult, but it gives us strength that we’re going to emerge and still be able to meet our mission.”

The next full board of regents meeting will take place in early November, with several committee meetings happening before that.

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