Juneau residents oppose possible UAS merger

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Several Juneau residents, professors and college students encouraged the Alaska Board of Regents to look elsewhere when they consider budget cuts this year.

    Several cost-cutting measures are on the table including cuts to programs and courses across the system.

    Another idea has been to merge the three accredited Alaska universities into one university.

    The Board of Regents took nearly two hours of comment from the public in advance of the next board meeting on June 4 and 5.

    The callers supported the uniqueness of the Juneau campus, its importance to the economy and workforce development, and its cultural significance.

    The University system faces $70 million in budget cuts over the next three years.  They've also been hit by the pandemic.

    The Board of Regents will meet June 4th and 5th to weigh options for the system's future.

    Dr. Maureen Longworth says she didn't decide to be a doctor until after she began a career as a playwright.  She said having the university here in Juneau was vital to her success.

    She noted it is important to keep college opportunities available in Juneau so that other students can seek careers, "I've met many students here in Juneau that have not had the idea to be a doctor.  I encourage them to consider it.  Lots of local people in the native Alaska community shadowed physicians and other health care workers and were inspired to choose health care professions."

    Matt Berry of Soldotna, a senior this year at UAS, said Juneau is unique and offers unique programs and courses students enjoy.  He said he feared the University of Alaska Anchorage and the University of Alaska Fairbanks would change the programs at UAS.

    "My fear is that UAS being swallowed by UAA or UAF would allow for the dismantling of all the specific UAS degree programs that are uniquely tailored toward the culture of southeast Alaska," he added.

    Former UAS Marshall Lind said he felt the University system could save money by combining the positions of University President and Chancellor.  He said it would not impact students and free up money for other uses.



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