Dunleavy's Debacle would devastate University of Alaska, among other things
The University of Alaska would have to close one or two of its main branches to deal with the reckless and unwarranted budget cuts proposed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
Or the university could double tuition and price itself out of existence. It could close all community campuses for $38 million, stop maintenance to cut $45 million, and eliminate the statewide administration for $18 million.
It makes absolutely no sense for Alaskans to be in this situation and to have to be considering these options.
Dunleavy wants to cut $134 million from the university budget. Closing the University of Alaska Anchorage would cut $120 million in operating costs. Closing the University of Alaska Fairbanks would save $164 million. Closing the University of Alaska Southeast would save $25 million.
Of course, “save” is the wrong word.
Any of these steps would inflict costly damage on Alaska and its future. Reducing educational opportunities and encouraging young people to leave the state is not the way to build the highly educated work force that will be required in the decades ahead.
The immediate lessons from Dunleavy’s Debacle are that no parent can have the confidence to send a son or daughter to the university, all top faculty members will be looking for better opportunities elsewhere and Alaska will be a less attractive place for future investment and development.
The trend of lower enrollment will accelerate, as the university sheds another 1,300 positions, adding to a downward spiral for the state.
All because of Dunleavy’s refusal to consider any taxes or work on a balanced fiscal plan.
In the short term, every legislator needs to speak up about the future of the university and whether they will oppose the Dunleavy decline.
The university cuts are discouraging, but so are the reductions elsewhere in state services. The budget is the ideological work of visiting budget director Donna Arduin, and it met instant opposition from every corner of Alaska upon its release.
Arduin, who is making $195,000 a year, is not here for the long haul and she doesn’t know the political compromises of the past or the expectations of people in towns she has never seen and will never see.
In my decades of covering Alaska politics, I can’t recall anything as irresponsible as the Dunleavy/Arduin budget. By slashing valuable state services and making no effort to consider their importance, the Dunleavy budget fails on all accounts. looking at the cost of everything and the value of nothing.
When Arduin was hired from Michigan late last year, an oil company official chided me for my comments that someone with specific knowledge of Alaska was needed. “This xenophobia-like attitude towards professionals who come to work in Alaska is misplaced,” he said. “Let’s focus on content and analysis delivered.”
Let’s. Based on the “content and analysis delivered,” the visiting budget director should be on the next flight to Seattle.