Dunleavy's unprecedented attack on Alaska's university

During his campaign for governor, Mike Dunleavy promised Alaskans he would cut the University of Alaska budget by 40 percent, which would lead to more than 1,300 layoffs and a declaration by the UA Board of Regents of financial emergency, forcing the shutdown of major programs and some campuses.

Except he didn’t.

Had he told the truth, Dunleavy would be unemployed today, still drawing the state pension he earned from his years in public education. But he was elected and he listened to the most radical voices in Alaska who think a system of community colleges is all Alaska needs. He vetoed $130 million from the university budget.

“It may be one of the biggest yearly pullbacks from public higher education by a state in modern history, according to association data going back to 1980. New Hampshire lowered funding by about 39% in 2012 after the recession, only to boost funding later to make up for the decline,” Bloomberg reported the other day, citing the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.

“Alaska’s austerity measures are in stark contrast to other states that have started to increase higher-education funding as the economy keeps expanding,” the Bloomberg report said.

A new report from the Alaska Legislature confirms the finding. The national economic collapse led to the New Hampshire cut, which was partially reversed a couple of years later with a 27 percent increase.

The report says a handful of states had 20 percent cuts following the economic collapse a decade ago, but none have seen a 41 percent cut.

The report notes that since New Hampshire relies on tuition for a larger percentage of its revenue, the impact of the Dunleavy veto will have a greater financial impact.

The University of Alaska estimates that the total cost of the Dunleavy veto, if the Legislature does not find the 45 votes to override, will be close to $250 million, as it would lead to a loss of $69 million in tuition and $44 million in federal grants.

Dermot Cole7 Comments