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Alaska’s Engineering Colleges Prepare To Slash Programs, Lay Off Faculty

In response to Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy’s dramatic budget cuts to the state’s only public institution of higher education, the University of Alaska’s engineering colleges in Fairbanks and Anchorage are preparing to cut faculty members and slash a number of programs. “Dozens of engineering faculty, researchers, and staff could see their positions eliminated, and even tenured faculty members could lose their jobs. Students may not be able to finish their degrees in the programs or locations in which they started,” reports IEEE Spectrum. “Many engineering students have already lost merit-based scholarships promised to them via the Alaska Performance Scholarship program.” From the report: On 28 June, Gov. Dunleavy vetoed US $130 million in state funding for the University of Alaska system for the fiscal year that began on 1 July — a step he said was necessary to contend with the state’s $1.6 billion budget deficit, inflicted in large part by sluggish oil prices. Those cuts came on top of a $5 million reduction proposed by Alaska’s legislature. Overall, state funding for the University of Alaska has been reduced by $136 million [PDF], or 41 percent, for the fiscal year that began 1 July. That translates to a 17 percent reduction to the University of Alaska’s total operating budget. Citing reputational damage caused by these cuts, the University of Alaska’s Board of Regents expects tuition, grant funding, and charitable donations to also drop, adding to a total loss of more than $200 million [PDF] in funding for the current fiscal year.

The University of Alaska is now widely expected to declare financial exigency [PDF], an emergency status that would allow administrators to take extreme measures to reduce costs by closing campuses, slashing salaries and programs, or laying off tenured faculty. However, closing the university’s flagship Fairbanks campus would still not be enough to cover the shortfall. In response to budget cuts in previous years, the university has already suspended or discontinued more than 50 degree programs and certificates, including its MS in Engineering Management program.


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