Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The President of Alaska's University System said the new online courses they provided on a learning platform that began last year have caught the attention of thousands of students from around the world.
President Pat Pitney addressed attendees of the Southeast Conference and she said that over the past few years funding has been difficult for the system as a whole.
"We have been challenged, there is no doubt major reduction seven out of the last eight years, over $100 million, that's a third of our state funding has been gone, we have resized, we have monetized some of our assets, we have demolished facilities, we've reduced our administration, we've reduced 50 academic programs."
In the face of 2500 fewer employees, fewer academic programs, and a decrease in student enrollment, Pitney said that they are turning the corner.
"This year, for the first time in several years, the number of applications for first-time students was up across the system, those applications, turned into higher first-time enrollment at one of our universities. This is the first good news and in a long time," she said. "The partnership and the philanthropy, across the state have changed, people are trusting us that we're here, we're resized. We're building that path to stability.
She spoke on innovation the university did during the pandemic.
"COVID hit us very hard, just like I think every business, but what we learn in COVID we're going to use going forward," said Pitney. "One of the kind of the wonderful surprises of COVID is, we got into this massively online open coursework and this is a Harvard MIT education platform"
UAF had joined Harvard, MIT, and 100 other institutions in the learning platform edX in 2020. More than 33 million learners have enrolled in edX courses since its founding in 2012. The 12 free online courses UAF provided to edX focused on the circumpolar North, containing technical courses touching on satellites, space physics, and courses comprehensive community health were among the material.
"14,000 learners have taken this, we started at last year at this time. 14,000 learners, and of those, 1000 have said 'I want to show somebody I've completed this course,' so they pay a fee," she said. "More importantly, our first-time graduate students in those programs are seeing a 7% increase, because people throughout the world, there are learners from all 50 states and 40 different countries in these programs, and it's helped the university get on the map."