University of Alaska Regents continue positive momentum, approve FY25 budgets during November meeting

Anchorage, Alaska (KINY) – On the foundation of growing enrollment and ongoing fiscal stability, the University of Alaska (UA) Board of Regents approved FY25 Budget requests and strategies that allow UA to continue empowering Alaska and building Alaska’s workforce. 

“The University of Alaska System is strong, and the actions taken today show the confidence this board has in our institutions,” said Board Chair Ralph Seekins. “Alaskans should be proud of the quality and offerings of their universities.”

Fiscally Responsible and Future-Focused FY25 Budget Approvals

The approved Operating Budget request for state funds includes increases that balance fiscal prudence with strategic investment. The request contains:

  • $6 million in state funds to support State and Arctic Leadership programs. The funds will help students through the completion of their academic goals, and contribute to building Alaska’s workforce.
  • $8.5 million to cover unavoidable fixed cost increases. Property insurance premiums, cyber security, and utility costs are continuing to rise.
  • $14.7 million to support negotiated compensation increases for faculty and staff. UA remains committed to providing competitive total compensation packages, including benefits, for employees across the system.

Regents held tuition rates flat for FY25; even so, tuition revenues are projected to grow by roughly $3 million thanks to increased enrollment. The total operating budget requests $337.7 million in state funds, an increase of $29.2 million over FY24. Including federal funds and other sources, UA’s proposed FY25 budget is $927.4 million.

“This budget effectively balances fiscal restraint with strategic investment in programs which empower Alaska,” UA President Pat Pitney said. “With growing enrollment, increased research investment, and positive forward momentum, UA is well positioned to serve our state and industries.”

In lieu of one-time capital funding, UA is pursuing a legislative strategy for consistent annual state funding to the “University of Alaska Major Maintenance and Modernization Fund.” The proposed legislation would allocate $35 million annually to an approved list of deferred maintenance projects. The university has been working in concert with the Governor’s Office and Legislative leadership on the particulars of the legislation. 

UA’s FY25 Capital Budget request focuses on projects to jumpstart future growth and notoriety. The request includes:

  • $20 million in state funds to support the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ (UAF) goal to achieve Tier 1 (R1) Research Status.​​ R1 is the highest ranking of doctoral-granting research universities in the U.S. UAF currently ranks as an R2, within the top 7% of U.S. universities in research achievement. Attaining R1 status would place UAF within the top 4% of U.S. research universities and have wide-ranging positive impacts on UAF, the UA system, and Alaska’s economy. 
  • $6 million in state funds ($8 million total) to support the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) Health Workforce Diversity Expansion Project. The project will expand the UAA College of Health’s ability to educate more students to fill high-demand state workforce needs. Programs supported by the renovation are WWAMI, nursing education, telehealth training, and inter-professional education programs.
  • $7 million in state funds ($10 million total) to expand the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) Mariculture Program. The expansion will create new infrastructure to support the Applied Fisheries Mariculture program at the UAS Sitka campus, including new laboratory space that includes access to fresh seawater, rearing tanks, and equipment for the operation of growing mariculture shellfish.

Regents also approved a new Bachelor of Business Administration in Business and Data Analytics degree at UAA. The degree was developed in collaboration with industry partners to meet a critical workforce need in Alaska.

Board Priorities & Leadership

Regents also discussed the “Roadmap to Empower Alaska.” The Roadmap is a strategic plan for the university system to advance Alaska’s economy through education, workforce development, research, and strong partnerships across the state. It revises the previous university goals and measures, and will be slated for formal adoption by the Board in February.

“I’m pleased with the progress that’s been made on this updated strategic plan,” said President Pitney. “The response and engagement from students, staff, and faculty is instrumental in refining our strategies, and I appreciate the Board’s active leadership in the process.”

The Board also voted to retain its current officers:

  • Ralph Seekins as Board Chair.
  • Karen Perdue as Board Vice Chair.
  • Scott Jepsen as Board Secretary.
  • Dale Anderson as Board Treasurer.

Recognizing Excellence and Honoring Service

UA Chief Human Resources Officer Memry Dahl announced that Kristel Komakhuk will be joining UA early next month as the System Office’s senior director for Alaska Native Success. She brings experience at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Alaska Pacific University, and First Alaskans Institute. 

Regents passed a resolution honoring Dr. Priscilla Schulte of UAS. Dr. Schulte has served UAS for 43 years, and currently serves as the director of the Ketchikan Campus. She plans to retire after Fall Semester 2023. Since joining the faculty of Ketchikan campus in 1980, Dr. Schulte has distinguished herself as an expert in cultural anthropology, multicultural education, Alaska Native cultures, sociocultural change, and the archaeology of southeast Alaska. She is also a long-time donor to and supporter of UAS.

The Board also honored Vic Fischer. Fischer passed away on October 23, 2023, at the age of 99. He was the last living delegate to Alaska’s Constitutional Convention, which was written on the UAF Campus during the winter of 1955-1956. Fischer was the inaugural director of the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER), which is Alaska’s premier public research institute, now housed at UAA. He continued to be affiliated with the University of Alaska until his death.

“Throughout his life, Vic gave tirelessly to Alaskans, specifically at the University and in the passing on of wisdom to young people,” Board Vice Chair Karen Perdue said. “We will dearly miss him, and extend our sincerest condolences to his wife, Jane, and his loved ones. He was truly a great man, who had a great impact on our University System and state.”

Donations in honor of Vic may be made in his name to the Vic Fischer Scholarship Program at the Institute of Social Economic Research at the University of Alaska, Alaska Public Media, or the Sitka Music Festival.