UA president gives State of the University address

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska - UA President Jim Johnsen spoke to a crowded room of students, faculty, alumni, and members of the community at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Tuesday, March 26. He discussed the success and contributions that University of Alaska Southeast, UAA, and UAF have on the people of the state, and the economy.

“Our research not only expands our knowledge about our world, it brings us unparalleled financial returns. For every dollar we invest, our researchers bring in 6 dollars from outside the state,” Johnsen addressed to the crowd

Johnsen acknowledged that Alaska is in a fiscal deficit. “I would be the last person to say that we cannot improve administrative efficiency in support of our academic programs and student services, and that’s why we have and will continue to standardize and, in some cases, consolidate administration,” he said.

Johnsen says the state needs the U-A system more now than ever.

"We need a strong educational system, and the university is a very, very important part of that. Not only in terms of providing the advanced education for teachers and nurses and all the others that provide services in our community, by supporting economic development as well," he said.

For the UA, the proposed cut is $134 million, or 41 percent of the state funding of $327 million to Alaska Universities. These are cuts that are in addition to the state funding cuts over the last five years, resulting in program reduction and the loss of more than 1,200 faculty and staff. Johnsen says the cuts to UA will harm Alaska's ability to grow the highly trained workforce we need to be economically competitive with other states.

"Cutting our base state budget by $134 million really harms us but it really more importantly harms our ability to contribute to the state," Johnsen said.

Johnsen says the proposed budget has the potential to cut classes and research.

“I think the much more severe ripple effect is what it does for the state, to the state’s economy, which is very, very negative. Our economy has been grinding down for years now. We have the worst economy in the country and it would seem to me rational to invest in an engine for economic development and that's what the University of Alaska is," said Johnsen.

Johnsen closed the speech with a message of the significance on funding the UA system. Legislators have until June 30 to decide the fate of the Governor’s proposed budget.