FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The University of Alaska Board of Regents approved an operating budget Friday that calls for a $16.9 million increase in general funds next year.
But it was uncertain how a boost of that size will play with the Legislature, which oversees spending for the statewide system.
University of Alaska President Mark Hamilton won a similar increase from the Legislature last session. It was the university's largest operating fund increase in a decade that had been marked by budget, program and personnel cuts.
''The main thing it means for us is it enables us to keep the momentum going,'' UAF Chancellor Marshall Lind said. ''We're growing, we've got people enthused, we're increasing enrollment.
''Getting some additional dollars enables us to keep that forward momentum going. It's so important to us.''
The increase would boost general fund spending on university from $188.8 million to $205.7 million, said UA spokesman Bob Miller. University officials estimate spending another $348 million from other sources, for a total statewide operating budget of $553.8 million.
Regents also approved a $87.5 million capital budget. Miller said the top request for new construction is completion of classrooms at the Sitka, Bristol Bay and Ketchikan campuses.
In discussions of the operating budget, Hamilton won over the Republican-led Legislature last session with an approach that promised results and accountability from the university's programs. He covered the same themes in the university's fiscal 2002 budget request, breaking down the $16.9 million into four categories.
--Maintaining a solid foundation: $9.2 million would be used for salary maintenance, distance education, equipment repair, upgrade and replacement and increased business efficiency.
--Attracting and retaining Alaska's students: $1 million would go for student advising, support and computer services.
--Meeting Alaska's employment needs: $4.2 million would be directed toward job training in education, health care and information technology. Most of these programs are aimed at professional development. And,
--Preparing for Alaska's economic success: $2.5 million would be channeled toward getting the university system ready to produce workers for a natural gas pipeline or a missile defense system. UA also would strengthen natural resource and fisheries programs.
Hamilton wants those changes made quickly.
''Let's say you set a goal of having Alaska engineers build the (gas) pipeline,'' Hamilton told regents Thursday. ''I need those future engineers now. It takes us five years to make one. I need them in the classroom next fall and the fall after that.''
Rep. John Davies, D-Fairbanks, attended a portion of meetings Thursday and was cautiously optimistic about the prospects of getting the funding increase.
''In terms of the operating budget, I don't see any red flags in there,'' Davies said. ''I think it's all very well justified and it goes along the same path the university has been following under President Hamilton.''
What Davies, a member of the House minority, could not predict was whether the Legislature would be as free with its money this year.
Regents also approved tuition increases Friday. Starting with the fall 2001 semester, tuition will increase tuition $2 per credit hour for lower division classes and $3 dollars per credit hour for upper division classes.
Tuition will increase $6 per credit hour for graduate classes.
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