UA President says cuts, possible consolidation won’t affect accreditation

University of Alaska Southeast (Photo by Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau)

In the wake of a $25 million cut this year by the Dunleavy administration, and another $45 million anticipated in future years, the University of Alaska is considering some campus consolidation.

UA President Jim Johnsen concluded the first day of presentations at the Southeast Conference in Sitka, with a university update. 

Currently the university consists of three accredited institutions, and 16 campuses.

“We will remain an accredited university. Period. End of report. So if anybody says that’s gonna threaten accreditation. No, we’re not going to do anything that would threaten our accreditation,” he said. “It’s not negotiable. Even if we have increased consolidation, there will be people where the students are.”

Johnsen said a group of 13 teams would be looking into restructuring options of all of the academic programs, and they would present their findings to the Board of Regents. But regardless of exactly what the institution looks like in the future, Johnson said one thing was certain. 

“What’s certain is we will need to reduce our costs and programs and people will be cut. What’s certain is we’re going to go through a rational process for making those decisions,” said Johnsen. “What’s certain is that the students in those programs are going to be taught out, they’re going to be taken care of, and we have a record of accomplishing that.”

There’s been no consolidation of campuses in the system since 1988. Even without budget cuts, people have been thinking about integration. Johnsen said a recent survey of the university community was divided right down the middle when it came to campus integration.

“50-50 split between increased uniqueness and increased integration. 50-50 split. You wouldn’t know that if you went to the Regents meeting because it was all 100 percent uniqueness.” 

One quarter of the nearly-4,000 people surveyed were students. Johnsen said this demographic most favored more campus integration. 

The annual meeting of the Southeast Conference runs through Friday in Sitka.