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UA Regents meet to discuss budget, centralized education college

UA Regents meet to discuss budget, centralized education college
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FAIRBANKS — The University of Alaska Board of Regents met Thursday in Fairbanks to discuss progress in the creation of the new centralized Alaska College of Education, which will be based in Juneau at the University of Alaska Southeast. 

University President Jim Johnsen announced the structure for the new college of education with the flagship school in Juneau and subsequent smaller schools remaining at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and University of Alaska Anchorage. The school of education will be folded into the College of Arts and Sciences at UAA and the College of Natural Science and Mathematics at UAF. 

“We are making good progress toward establishing a single college of education, a change that’s crucial as we look to create a culture in Alaska that encourages education and promotes the value of the teaching profession,” Johnsen said. “We have to attract more students into the profession and graduate more UA-educated teachers if we are going to meet the needs of our state.”

Johnsen identified a goal of educating 90 percent of the state’s teachers at the university 2025.

The Alaska College of Education will be led by an executive dean who also will chair the new UA Teacher Education Council with representatives from all three universities. 

The pool of potential executive deans for the new college has been narrowed to two candidates — Steve Atwater, current interim dean for the UAF school of Education; and Kathryn Hildebrand, dean of Education at Troy University in Troy, Alabama. 

Atwater visited the UAF campus Feb. 19. Hildebrand is schedule to visit March 9.

University spokesman Robbie Graha said a selection is expected by the end of the month.

Although centralizing the university’s College of Education in Juneau was contentious at the start, regents shared their strong support for the university’s continued focus on Alaska’s education Thursday during the meeting. 

“We should be able to educate Alaska’s educators. It’s as simple as that,” Anchorage Regent Mary Hughes said.

Johnsen also discussed the (now completed) three phases of Strategic Pathways, his plan to streamline university operations to cut costs. Now, it’s time to look ahead, he said. 

Moving forward includes creating a central College of Education; tracking the success of students and the university during phases 1-3 of the changes; and continuing to fine-tune the university’s budget and structure for efficiency. 

State funding for the university as a whole has been cut steadily since 2014. During the past year, tuition and fees revenue has dropped from $118.4 million to $117.3 million, federal grants and contract revenue has dropped from $58.8 million to $57.5 million; and state grants and contract revenue has dropped from $3.4 million to $2.8 million. Subsequently, enrollment has dropped from 29,171 to 27,823. 

Between fiscal years 2015 and 2018, the university cut 1,200 employees and 50 academic programs.

If the Legislature does not approve the regents’ request for $341 million, cuts will continue, Johnsen said. Where those cuts will fall is undetermined. However, regents agreed that Arctic research and science fields remain staples for UAF and funding cuts should be kept at a minimum. 

During the second day of meetings, regents will tour the new UAF Engineering Building, followed by continued discussion of the budget, Title IX and the centralized College of Education.

Regents will meet again in Anchorage for a full board meeting May 31 and June 1.

Contact staff writer Erin Granger at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter:@FDNMPolitics.

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