UA leaders discuss future of licensure programs and uncertain funding

Published: May. 9, 2019 at 6:30 PM AKDT
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The University of Alaska Board of Regents was updated Thursday regarding what's next for students going through UAA's School of Education initial licensure programs after a loss of accreditation. More students are now deciding what's next for their future, as the school helps them through this transition.

Back on April 8th, UA's Board of Regents voted to discontinue the initial licensure programs at UAA. Since then school officials have been helping those students who were enrolled in those programs transition to either UAF or UAS.

Executive Dean of the Alaska College of Education Steve Atwater said about 150 students have transferred, or have left their programs since January.

As of the April announcement regarding the initial licensure programs, about 60 students have moved on and have transferred to UAF or UAS. Remaining students still have time to decide whether to transfer to one of these schools, or stay under UAA, and switch majors.

"We're doing an individual outreach to every student to ensure that they have a feel for what's really happening," said Atwater. "In the past month and the coming month, we'll be reaching out to students individually to ensure that they understand that things have changed and that they need to make a decision with what they want to do next."

However, officials want to make it clear, students don't have to leave Anchorage to continue these programs. The programs will continue under UAF and UAS on UAA's campus with a mixture of face to face classes, online classes, and hybrids.

"One thing I want to stress is that the School of Education at the University of Alaska will continue to be a school of education at the University of Alaska. There are several advanced programs that will continue to be operated so the students will continue to enroll and take courses there, and so while UAF and UAS will have a presence, the school itself will remain," Atwater said.

Atwater says the programs at UAF and UAS aren't identical to the ones offered at UAA, but do lead to the same level of degree and licensures.

The discontinuation of advanced teacher licensing programs will be considered at a Board of Regents meeting scheduled for the Fall.

The UA Board of Regents also considered different options as the state's budget sits in a budget conference committee. They say they're looking more optimistic now than they did in the beginning.

Right now, that committee is considering a budget for the University between $317 and $322 million dollars. As it stands now, the University is looking at about a 3 percent cut — a big difference from the Governor's original proposal of about 41 percent. However, the process isn't over yet, as the governor still has the power to veto University spending.

"We hope he doesn't. We know he supports education," said UA President, Jim Johnsen. "I've spoken with him a number of times, and had very constructive conversations with him about the role of the University in the state. I think he understands and appreciates that, but our budget situation is a difficult one right now, so I respect what our legislators are doing, and I certainly respect what the Governor is trying to accomplish as well.

The University is hoping to have a finalized budget to work with come June. Until then, Johnsen is meeting with the Board of Regents to discuss different options, and consider different priorities depending on what that finalized number might look like.

"Do we cut even deeper in order to fund some of those strategic priorities, like making sure our campuses are safe from sexual harassment, or making sure our faculty and staff are paid fairly according to the market — or make sure that we're taking care of our facilities, and subscriptions in our libraries, and internet costs and making sure that we're investing in research and investing in innovative ways to improve student recruitment and retention," said Johnsen.

United Academics, which represents about 1250 full time faculty at UA has been watching this process closely, as well.

"The house has proposed a $10 million cut compared to last year," said President of United Academics, Abel Bult-ito. "The Senate did $5 million, so what I'm hoping is that the legislature will just keep in at the five million level. With the priorities of the board of regents, this would still mean a cut to most programs, but a cut that would be between 5 and 10 percent which would still leave to the layoff of staff and faculty, but it wouldn't be as devastating as the $134 million cut."

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