The Alaska State Legislature failed to avert a proposed $444 million state budget cut, $130 million of which will be coming out of the state’s higher education system. Constituting 41% of the University of Alaska System’s budget, the proposed cut is unprecedented and will take a toll not just on higher education, but inevitably on Alaska’s economy and social fabric as well.
University leadership has warned the Alaska Legislature that cuts of this scale may lead to the loss of 2,000 jobs, closed campuses, discarded academic programs, disruption of crucial research (especially Arctic climate research), and population drain. Lack of funding will prevent the University System from attracting out-of-state students. Alaskans who have the means will look elsewhere for education, while those who do not will be stuck with poorly-funded and understaffed campuses; the University of Alaska System has many regional campuses that serve rural populations, notably many Native Americans, and there are few alternatives to the state system.
Public universities across the country add millions of dollars to the economy. The University of Alaska System is no different—it contributed $714 million (directly) and $402 million (indirectly) to the statewide economy in 2012 alone, according to Forbes. Furthermore, university leaders estimate that by 2025, “65% of Alaskan jobs will require post-secondary education.” Without proper funding, students will seek their education elsewhere—draining Alaska’s precious human capital.
Societies that invest in education are the ones that prosper materially, morally, and intellectually. According to the watchdog site HowCollegesSpendMoney.com, the University of Alaska spends its money quite efficiently—investing in the education of its students rather than in administration and oversight, and keeping tuition low relative to median household income. To throw in the towel on an institution that has worked admirably to serve its students and community would be a grave mistake. ACTA can only hope that this proposal is remembered as an ill-advised and soundly rejected option.
Media Contact: Doug Sprei, Director of Communications
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