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Graduate Education

University of Alaska system faces budget crisis

by Andrea Widener
July 11, 2019 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 97, ISSUE 28

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Credit: Shutterstock
The University of Alaska system faces a 41% cut in state funding.

The University of Alaska is facing a budget crisis after its state legislature failed to override massive budget cuts imposed by the state’s governor. The governor slashed $135 million, or 41%, of the state’s support for the University of Alaska, the state’s only public university system. The school will likely declare the equivalent of a fiscal emergency soon, which could mean broad cuts, including to the university’s faculty. The chemistry department at the school’s main campus in Fairbanks expects to be hit by the cuts, says department chair Thomas Green, but they don’t know exactly the impact yet. “This is all thrown at us all at once,” he tells C&EN from a rural Alaska beach where he is trying to keep up with the news while on vacation. “We are sort of in limbo now.” Before the failed override attempt, the university had already implemented a hiring and travel freeze and sent furlough notices to staff. Now they are waiting for a more detailed plan. “Of course everybody is worried,” Green says. The Fairbanks chemistry department includes 13 faculty and multiple staff, including a safety officer, stock room manager, NMR lab manager, and part-time administrative assistant. Green also doesn’t know what might happen to funding for the school’s 35 graduate students, about 15–17 of whom are supported through teaching assistantships each year. The university’s Board of Regents will meet July 15 to plan next steps.

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