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UAF Kuskokwim Campus Prepares For Budget Cuts

UAF Kuskokwim Campus in Bethel, Alaska

State budget cuts are making deep slashes across Alaska including the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta. The state Legislature hasn’t passed a budget, but with an almost four-billion dollar deficit, state-funded groups are paring down as they prepare their own budgets for the upcoming fiscal year. With the whole University of Alaska system preparing for major cuts, administrators at Bethel’s UAF Kuskokwim Campus are whittling to the bone.

“Between the two fiscal years we’ve had over a million dollars worth of cuts in state funding,” Mary Pete, UAF Kuskokwim Campus Director, said. Last year the campus cut nearly $400,000. This year it’s cutting around $800,000.

Pete says the library, business office and cultural center are losing positions, and all other contracts are being reduced.

“Eleven-month contract people are down to 10.5 or 10 months,” Pete said, “and 10 months are done to 9.5.”

She says the students are already feeling the effects.

“There were students who expected to access the campus, classrooms and Internet after 5 p.m., and,” she said, “we just can’t.”

Students used to be able to access the campus until 10 p.m. That stopped earlier this month. Now they only have that option when classes run late or if they can get into the dorm. And more blows are expected.

“I can see more and more students having to go longer to have their educational goals met,” Pete said.

In the past the campus has held classes with just one student like when he or she needed a class to graduate or meet a requirement. Pete says now that’s going to be harder to justify.

The community will also feel the cuts. Starting July 1, the Cultural Center will be closed Sundays and Mondays unless there’s an event.

“It’s not part of our mission,” Pete said. “It’s a wonderful building. A lot of wonderful things happen in that building. But it’s pretty spendy to maintain.”

The University of Alaska system is preparing for a $36 million dollar cut. But since the state Legislature hasn’t passed a budget, that number could go higher. In that case, Pete says the Cultural Center will shutdown for longer and the campus would close for a month or two.

But there is some good news at the campus. As budgets have shrunk over the last two years, enrollment and tuition revenue has gone up.