Over the last 18 months, two University of Alaska prioritization task forces have combed through 313 academic programs and 178 support functions and have looked for the fatty tissue that they might trim off to save what has become in recent month a huge expected shortfall in funds. Essentially, the university is looking through every program it offers and determining which programs are important and which programs aren’t.
In the University System, prioritization means essentially the same thing it means when a person applies it to her own life: what things should she put first and what things should she put off. Everyone prioritizes the more important things and puts off the less important things. Generally, people deal with a shortage of time so they have to chose to do somethings and not to do (or to do later) other things. The same goes for UAA. Except, with the university, the main restriction is funding rather than time.
During the prioritization process at UAA, the selected programs were separated into five quintiles. Quintile One was rated as a priority investment and Quintile Four and Five were slated for possible further review, reduction in funding, or total phaseout. Quintiles Two and Three were rated as either requiring some extra funding or more or less on track, implying that they did not require too much additional funding and were meeting the goals of the program.
The review placed 46 programs in Quintile One, indicating that they were a priority for funding. These programs included the general education program (which is the default program for undeclared students), the art program (which, according to the report needs a new facility), and four foreign language programs.
In Quintile Two, which is to be considered for enhancement, the report also placed 46 programs, including nursing (which the report says is doing well but could benefit from increased funding), accounting (which needs a new faculty member), and computer science.
There are 73 programs in the third quintile, which will be slated for UAA to maintain. Among these programs are Journalism and Communication, Marketing, and Health Sciences.
In the fourth and fifth quintile, which may face transformations and further review, there are several programs including both the Teaching and Learning Elementary Education program and the Teaching and Learning Masters in Arts in Teaching or MAT program.
The full report can be viewed online at www.uaa.alaska.edu/program-prioritization.
Chancellor Tom Case explained in the report that over UAA’s history, it has grown and changed tremendously. He said that the prioritization process will help bring the University back into alignment. According Case’s initial prioritization report, the programs being cut, consolidated or reduced should save the University up to two-million dollars.
Case said in the report: “UAA has a remarkable array of programs and functions, and many outstanding people who teach and staff them. Regardless, some programs and functions need to evolve, consolidate, contract or partner for efficiency. Some need to go away.” With cuts amounting to two-million, it’s reasonable to expect quite a bit to “go away.”
The chancellor explained that over the next months, the University will formulate a budget for 2016, the Deans will be working together to agree on desired outcomes, and the school will continue to focus on the goals and needs of students. He said that over the next three to five years, the University expects a 25-30 million dollar reduction in funding, thus prioritization alone will not be enough.
It is likely that programs that were slated by the prioritization report to receive additional funding will not receive it in the near future
Never the less, Case said in his report that the University is pleased with the prioritization process. He says that he committed early on to avoiding across-the-board cuts and that he stands by that statement now.