The University of Alaska Board of Regents agreed last week to fund a $4 million design project to repurpose an already existing building on the UAF campus by September, 2015 when the first students begin studies in a new veterinary medicine program. But, the new program is on a list of recommended budget cuts.
Last December, UAF signed an agreement with Colorado State University to establish a professional veterinary medicine program. Chancellor Brian Rogers says the industry calls for up to 20 new vets in Alaska each year, but that the new program will only train half as many.
"We know for the last several years, when students came to us, interested in veterinarian medicine, our advice to them was to move out of state, establish residency in a state with a vet school, at least then you’ll have a one in ten chance of getting in," Rogers said.
The program is only partially funded by money from the state. It was on list of high priority items the legislature signed off on in 2013. But this year, it did not receive a second round of state funding. Chancellor Rogers says he plans to ask again next year. "I don’t expect to get it, but we will internally reallocate in order to cover what the legislature didn’t fund," he said.
In May, UAF’s Planning and Budget Committee added the vet program to a list of possible budget reductions. According to the report, cutting the program could save up to $400,000, but the committee notes in the report that eliminating the program means UAF will lose tuition revenue. The report also says the program could make UAF more competitive. Chancellor Rogers told the Board of Regents the program has an instructional focus, but faculty at CSU and UAF are already cooperating on research.
“CSU does some wonderful animal based research, much of which ends up in human health as well and the collaboration we’re already seeing, as their faculty get to know our faculty, we’re seeing opportunities for joint research proposals to NIH and our focus is on the instructional program and I didn’t expect to see the research benefits, but we’re already beginning to see them," Rogers said.
Veterinary medicine classes are slated to begin in the fall of 2015. The Planning and Budget Committee is currently taking feedback on the report outlining recommended funding reductions.