University of Alaska Regents approve budget, tuition hike
It will cost University of Alaska System students a little more to attend class next fall.
The UA Board of Regents approved varying tuition increases by an 8-2 vote for the 2015 academic year, which begins in fall 2014, during a Nov. 6 meeting in Anchorage.
Resident undergraduate students at all system campuses will pay $6 more per credit. The course rate changes equate to a 3.6 percent increase to $174 per credit for first and second-year courses, and a 2.9 percent hike to $210 for upper-level courses at the Anchorage, Fairbanks and Southeast campuses.
In total, tuition will cost students taking a full-time 15-credit course load $2,610 to $3,240 each semester. That is a $90 increase versus this year.
Campus-specific fees can add to the total cost of attendance and vary between schools.
To graduate in four years most UA academic programs require undergraduate students to average 15 credits per semester.
Despite the increase, UA tuition remains among the lowest among Western state university systems, according to a system release.
“Tuition should be the last place we go when trying to balance the budget,” UA President Pat Gamble said in a formal statement.
A $12 per credit increase was approved for resident graduate students and all non-resident students. Resident grad students will pay $403 per credit — up 3.1 percent — next year.
For non-resident undergraduates the rate goes up from $612 to $648 per credit and $811 for non-resident graduates students from states outside of the Western Graduate Exchange program which offers reduced out-of-state tuition rates for students from 14 Western states.
In September 2012 the regents approved a 2 percent tuition increase for resident undergraduates and all graduate students, and a 4 percent hike for non-resident undergraduates. Those increases went into effect this fall.
Along with approving the tuition changes, the board of regents approved the capital and operating budget requests for the system’s 33 statewide campuses.
The operating budget request for the 2015 fiscal year is $936.1 million. It would be a 2.6 percent increase over the final fiscal 2014 operating budget of $911.7 million if approved by the Legislature. Last year, the regents requested a $963.4 million operating budget. The state appropriation portion of the latest proposal is $388.3 million, up 3.1 percent. The remaining $547.7 million would be covered by university system revenues.
One portion of the operating budget that is up in the air is how much salaries for some university faculty and staff will cost. The university system’s contract with the Alaska Public Employees Association Local 6070, the union that represents UA maintenance workers, expired at the end of 2012 and a new contract has not been signed.
Contracts for adjunct faculty and faculty represented by the United Academics union expire Dec. 31 and negotiations with these groups are just beginning, according to the report.
The regents’ capital request to the Legislature is for $403.8 million. State appropriations would cover $319.3 million of the request under the proposal.
Nearly two-thirds of the appropriations request is for a complete overhaul of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ combined heat and power plant. At a total estimated cost of $245 million for a new coal-fired plant, UAF officials have said the school could finance $50 million of it through bonds, leaving $195 million to be funded by the state capital budget.
Other noteworthy projects in need of funding are the engineering buildings being built in Anchorage and Fairbanks. To fully-fund both construction projects, a combined request of $78.9 million was approved. Of that, $33.3 million for UAF would close the funding gap on its $108.9 million, 119,100-square foot facility.
At UAA, the engineering building and an associated 500-space parking ramp needed to comply with Municipality of Anchorage code, is expected to cost $123.2 million. The board of regents is requesting $45.6 million in the state’s 2015 fiscal year budget to complete the project.
Construction is underway on the Anchorage engineering building and the parking garage has been designed and awaits further funding. If the UA Fairbanks project is fully funded in the next legislative session it could be completed by January 2016, according to the budget report.
A total of $2.9 million in appropriations requests were approved for proposed resource development programs. An Arctic Center for Oil Spill Response Research at UAF would develop a curriculum around risk mitigation for offshore activity. Funding to complete UAF’s resource mapping portion of the Statewide Digital Mapping Initiative by the end of 2014 was also sought.
Deferred maintenance projects account for $37.5 million of the capital proposal, with $22 million for UAF’s main campus.
The board also put out a notice to the Legislature in its 10-year capital improvement plan about projects it hopes will happen down the road. Part of the plan is for a $109 million UAA Health Sciences building by 2024 to meet a growing demand for health care professionals, the regents stated.
The board will likely also make a request to for $24.3 million to build a Kodiak Career and Technical Education Center by fiscal year 2019. The current Vocational Technology Center Building in Kodiak was built in 1973.
A request for $13 million by fiscal year 2018 to build a new commons building on the UA Southeast campus is also in the works.
Elwood Brehmer can be reached at email@example.com.