ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The University of Alaska Board of Regents has voted to cut or reduce more than 40 academic programs across the three-university system that is struggling financially.
“This represents the largest number of program reductions completed by UA in recent memory,” regent Karen Perdue said in a statement. “It reflects the tough financial times we are in.”
University administrators agreed Friday to discontinue 39 programs, reduce four other programs and conduct one program merger.
The cuts are meant to save the university $25 million as part of a spending reduction plan President Jim Johnsen signed with Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy last year. That plan agreed to cut $70 million in state funding over three years.
Programs that were cut were chosen from a larger list of programs previously selected by university administrators, university officials said. Thirteen of them had previously been suspended, some as early as 2013.
The University of Alaska Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses had the most program cuts, while only two programs were cut from the Southeast campus.
Most of the programs were cut by a single vote, but 13 academic programs were given individual consideration after a lengthy debate, University of Alaska spokesperson Roberta Graham said. Some of the programs included environmental studies, geography and geological studies at Fairbanks, sociology and theater at Anchorage and welding and nondestructive testing at all three universities, KTUU-TV reported.
Some of the eliminated programs will remain for up to four years so currently enrolled students can complete their degrees. According to the Academic Affairs Committee, more than 600 students are currently enrolled in the cut programs but thousands more take classes from those programs in their studies, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
The board decision came one day after voting to review a possible merger between the University of Alaska Southeast and the University of Alaska Fairbanks, a move that has garnered opposition in public comments. The merger review process will include students, staff and faculty leaders.
City and Borough of Juneau and Southeast Conference also voiced opposition to a potential merger, the Juneau Empire reported.
“No decision has been made about that, we are planning for our fall and spring semesters,” University of Alaska Southeast Chancellor Rick Caulfield said. “The Board simply asked for a study of whether that is a wise idea.”
That study is due to the regents Oct. 15. Caulfield said he expects a decision to be made in November.