UAA Prioritization Report Lays Out Next Steps, Many Questions Remain

The University of Alaska Anchorage on Tuesday released its report on the findings of the prioritization process it has been undergoing for the last year and a half. It gives recommendations and lays out a basic plan of how to move forward, but many questions remain unanswered.

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From, “enhancement in the form of a tenured or tenure-track position is necessary for success” to, “expensive program with limited student demand and few graduates. Recommend expedited review for revision or elimination.” This report lays recommendations, setting the stage for the next step in prioritization. But, there’s one thing you won’t find in the report.

“You won’t see money, funding reductions in here,” Bill Spindle, the vice chancellor of administration at UAA, said. Though some budget cuts will be an end result, he says that’s not the focus of this report. “We mainly did this exercise to better align all our programs and functions with our overall mission.”

The recommendations are based on extensive research and analysis by two faculty task forces, which looked at every program and function at UAA.

Each item is placed into rank 1 – which means it’s a priority for enhancement – through 5 – which calls for further review, and potentially elimination. But, Spindle says just because something is ranked category 5, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily doomed.

Others are, however.

Sam Gingerich, the interim provost at UAA, says some things – like a number of certificate programs – are potentially on the chopping block because their time has passed.

“While they were very effective a decade ago, there’s no longer as much interest or as much demand by employers, so those will, for the most part, be eliminated,” Gingerich said. “However, there are a few in there that actually do still have a market that they need to meet.”

The majority of the academic programs were found to fit in with UAA’s mission, or even deserving of more resources. But, a number of programs landed in category 4 – in need of transformation, like the Elementary Education or Human Services programs. Diane Hirshberg – who is a professor of education policy and the president of the faculty senate at UAA – says even though no decisions are final, staff and faculty remain uneasy as state funding continues to drop.

“The administration is being very cautious and trying to let people know that they’re trying to, that they’re gonna put into place a process for budget cutting that is not going to lop off essential limbs, but I think faculty are going to be very, very nervous until we see what this really looks like,” Hirshberg said.

In a letter sent from UAA Chancellor Tom Case, he says revenue projections have fallen by as much as $30 million over the next 3 to 5 years, and the savings from prioritization won’t make up that difference.

Spindle says the university expects to act on the recommendations in the report by the end of this school year.