University of Alaska President stresses importance of reinvesting in education

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen delivered an annual state of the university address at UAA on Tuesday.

Johnsen told leaders at Commonwealth North's monthly luncheon that he and the board of regents will ask the legislature for a "modest increase" of $341 million dollars.

The operating budget for the past year was $317 million dollars.

Johnsen said over the past four years, the university lost nearly 1,200 faculty and staff.

The university has also seen a reduction in enrollment by more than 15 percent and more than 50 academic programs or degrees discontinued.

If the legislature grants the university system the $341 million, Johnsen said the plan will be to reinstate some positions that were cut, primarily student-serving positions.

"That'll be priority number one, student advisors, people to help our students make it through our programs," Johnsen said.

The university said by 2025, 65 percent of all Alaska jobs will require a form of post-secondary education, illustrating a need for increased educational attainment to sustain a diverse and competitive economy.

Johnsen said the university will focus on increasing enrollment and STEM graduates, increasing the percentage of UA-trained educators hired in Alaska school districts, leading in Arctic research and operating more cost-effectively.

"We get the challenges of our state, we're totally realistic about that, but we are focused on meeting the needs of our state, we are totally committed," Johnsen said. "We're all in, we have a long way to go, we hope to be here 100 years from now serving the state."

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