Theater, chemistry, sociology among dozens of academic programs cut at the University of Alaska system

The University of Alaska Anchorage sign on Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. (Tegan Hanlon / Alaska Public Media)

The state’s public university system is eliminating dozens of degree and certificate programs from theater to chemistry to creative writing to close a budget gap driven by cuts to state funding and declining enrollment, and exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The University of Alaska Board of Regents on Friday approved cutting about 40 programs and reducing or merging several others. It’s part of an effort by the UA administration to scale-down the university system as revenue sources shrink.

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Regent Karen Perdue said it’s the largest number of program reductions at UA in recent memory, and reflects the tough financial times the university system is in.

“The choices are difficult,” Perdue said in a statement. “Hard questions have been asked and refinements have been made.”

The academic cuts stem from a months-long review process. Students, faculty and community members have pushed to save some of the programs — arguing they have healthy enrollments and are unique to UA. Perdue said UA had to make difficult choices. 

Related: It’s not just coronavirus concerns at UAA, there’s also worry over degree program cuts

The program cuts will impact 30 faculty and staff. Also, almost 700 students are enrolled in the programs, according to UA. UA says those students will be able to complete their degree or certificate. That’s a requirement from accreditors. 

Faculty say many more students take classes from the programs.

The programs eliminated include: 

• At the University of Alaska Anchorage: Bachelor’s degree programs in sociology, hospitality administration, theater and environment and society, plus master’s degree programs in early childhood special education and creative writing and literary arts.

• At the University of Alaska Fairbanks: Bachelor’s degree programs in sociology, earth science and geography, plus master’s degree programs in biochemistry and space physics. The bachelor of arts in chemistry was also cut, but UAF still has a bachelor of science in chemistry. Some of the programs were previously suspended.

• At the University of Alaska Southeast: A bachelor’s degree program in geography and environmental resources. 

Read the full list of programs cut, merged and reduced here.

UA says the cuts will save about $4 million.

Regents also agreed on Friday to several other ways to cut spending including restructuring debt, suspending pay increases and furloughs. UA regents tasked administrators to further study a controversial proposal to merge UAS programs into the Fairbanks and Anchorage universities. The proposal has drawn widespread criticism. 

Related: University regents decide to put the brakes on campus merger plan for UAS

Reach reporter Tegan Hanlon at thanlon@alaskapublic.org or 907-550-8447.

Clarification: This story was updated to include that UAF still has a bachelor of science in chemistry.