Homer Alaska - Business

Story last updated at 12:12 PM on Wednesday, November 28, 2012

UA Board of Regents releases '14 budgets



By Elwood Brehmer
Morris News Service - Alaska

The University of Alaska Board of Regents released its budget proposals and performance report at a Nov. 7 meeting in Anchorage.

For fiscal year 2014, the board proposed a $963 million operating budget, a 4.2 percent increase over fiscal year 2013. A capital improvement budget of $306 million for 2014 also was announced.

The budget asks for a 5.5 percent increase, or $20 million, in state appropriations over the previous year to $383 million.

In total, the University of Alaska operating budget for next year is expected to increase $39 million.

Employee compensation costs are projected to increase 2.9 percent overall, but also are the area most likely to change, according to the budget report. The contract Local 6070 union is currently working under expires at the end of 2012 and a compensation increase settlement has not yet been reached.

Local 6070 represents UA trade and maintenance workers. It is the only portion of the university's labor force not under contract for the budget term.

The report also notes that changes in health care requirements could leave final budget numbers unclear. University campuses in Anchorage and Fairbanks "expect the cost of the Teacher and Research Assistants health plan to increase due to services, including preventative care, required under the Affordable Care Act which were not covered prior to the Act's passage."

Operating costs for new facilities such as the new Fairbanks Life Sciences center and new buildings at Kenai Peninsula College's Soldotna campus add $3.3 million to the total budget.

In the system's 2013 budget, $269 million was appropriated to the University of Alaska Anchorage, or UAA, and $262 million went to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, or UAF. The two schools made up 57 percent of the total system budget, consistent with historical rates, and the current proposal indicates no significant change.

The majority of the planned 2014 capital improvement budget, $233 million, or 76 percent, will come from state appropriations, with the rest being made up through a $50 million legislative request for an Annual Renewal and Repurposing Initiative and other university funds. More than a third, or $112.5 million, of the improvement money will fund deferred maintenance, according to a university system report.

Another chunk of $118.9 will be halved to fund construction of engineering and industrial facilities at UAA and UAF.

In a Nov. 19 meeting of the board of regents facilities and land management committee, a motion was approved to move ahead with construction of a $62.6 million parking garage as a part of UAA's comprehensive $123.2 million engineering and industry building plan.

The parking garage will add 485 parking spaces to the university. It will comply with the Municipality of Anchorage code for available parking based on the addition of the 40,000 square-foot engineering facility.

Along with meeting municipal regulation, the four-level garage will "densify the core of campus and push parking to the periphery," as a part of UAA's long-term campus vision, according to Associate Vice Chancellor Chris Turletes.

The board proposed $9.3 million in research funds for UAF to study chinook salmon decline in the Yukon and Kuskokwim River drainages.

Alaska's public universities also unveiled a mixed performance report in terms of degrees awarded and student achievement.

The system "delivered an all-time high number of degrees, certificates and licensures in (fiscal year 2012), a nearly 20 percent increase in annual awards compared with five years ago," the report stated.

In all, 4,174 students graduated and the University of Alaska expects to meet its goal of 4,250 for 2013.

The system fell short of its target for bachelor degree completion. It had a goal for 28.7 percent of its students studying full-time for an undergraduate degree to graduate within 6 years. In the 2012 fiscal year, 27.6 percent of those students graduated. The system's recent high came in 2009, when 29.7 percent of students working on a bachelor's degree graduated within 6 years, according to the report.

The national average is 29 percent for open enrollment universities such as the UA.

The average time to graduate from a traditional 4-year program in the University of Alaska systems is at 4.96 years, up 0.3 years, or 1 semester from 2008.

The UA also reported less than targeted returns on the number of health-related degrees awarded. The system-wide goal was 815 degrees, while 788 students achieved graduation. Actual graduation has remained steady over time, but there has been a 22 percent increase since 2008, in the number of students studying in health fields throughout Alaska.

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