Budget cuts announced for University of Alaska will ramify to the state’s rural campuses, but Nome’s Northwest Campus will likely avoid a proposed merger with another rural campus.
KUAC’s Dan Bross reports the cuts come in response to an $8 million cut by the state legislature and an expected $4 to $6 million rise in fixed operating costs. UAF Vice Chancellor for Administration Pat Pitney said the legislative cut is being spread out across the UA system.
“In order to take the state budget reduction, there were pullbacks from units that ranged from three to six percent, so on average five percent [reduction],” Pitney said. “But there were some units that were held harmless, from a strategic standpoint or from a revenue based standpoint or from other circumstances.”
Major cuts are still listed as “to be announced” pending additional review, but Pitney said there will be job losses, as many as 50 jobs over the next six to eight months. Pitney said all targeted cuts come at the recommendation of a budget review committee.
Approved cost savings measures so far also include reducing administration, bringing programs housed in leased space back on campus, eliminating UAF printing services, cutting back campus bus shuttle routes, and savings of more than a half million dollars from a legislatively-mandated restriction on travel.
“Every unit is taking a 20 percent travel reduction,” she said, “with the exception of instructional travel and athletic travel, which are taking a five percent travel reduction.”
In Nome, Northwest Campus director Bob Metcalf said, like all University of Alaska campuses, Nome’s campus is being asked to cut about five percent of its budget, roughly $90,000. All campuses are also being asked to delay filling any open positions for at least 90 days, but Metcalf said that won’t save local campuses any money.
“What the means is that, if we have a position that becomes vacant, the salary that we would save is taken. So it’s not only that we don’t have someone filling that position, but any money that we may save not filling it gets fed up the chain to UAF so they can meet their deficits.”
Metalf said the plan is still preferable to an across-the-board staffing cut. Overall, the budget committee hopes the UA system can save as much as $2 million by holding job openings.
One cost-cutting measure that didn’t get any traction was a proposal to merge Nome’s campus with Kotzebue’s Chukchi Campus. Ultimately, Metcalf said the university would see funding sources drop with a merger due to fewer autonomous campuses being able to apply for federal funds, and staffing costs were unlikely to save enough to warrant a merger. For now, at least, UAF’s budget hawks aren’t recommending the merger.
The Kuskokwim Campus in Bethel will also be trimming their budget by about five percent, or around $100,000. KYUK’s Daysha Eaton reports the campus also won’t apply for an adult basic education grant, which would require additional spending to meet grant requirements.
For now, Metcalf said the cuts are keeping clear of impacting what students can expect in the classroom.
“We’re still going to be offering the same number of classes,” he stressed. “We still have the ability to hire adjuncts, [we're] not losing any of the instructional capability at all. That would be the last we’d want to cut or reduce in any way.”
Beyond Nome and other campuses, one approved budget target could impact radio listeners throughout Alaska: the KUAC radio station on the University of Alaska-Fairbanks campus is tapped to find all of funding through public support. That would mean making up about $100,000 (roughly 10 percent) of the station’s costs, through increased public and corporate donations.
KUAC’s Dan Bross and KYUK’s Daysha Eaton contributed information to this story.