When University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen told Senate Finance Committee last week “I’m not going to negotiate,” there was an audible murmur among fiscal conservatives across the state.
Johnsen’s approach seemed incredible, considering he is facing a university system with rapidly declining enrollment, a cornerstone teaching degree program that lost its accreditation, and now a proposed budget cut of $134 million system wide from the Dunleavy Administration. That’s 40 percent cut of the total funds the university received from the State last year, but just a 17 percent cut to the university system’s overall budget.
No university president wants to preside over the decline of an institution. Johnsen has found himself in charge during a fiscal crisis that may demand he restructure higher education in Alaska, and he has little time to do so.