Cuts to Colleges in Alaska have Administrators Scrambling

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Budget cuts are a part of higher education as federal and state funding have dropped off due to rising costs of running colleges and universities. The University of Alaska is now facing a proposed budget cut to the tune of $310 million from Governor Mike Dunleavy, who must bridge a $1.6 billion deficit for the state.

The governor offset cuts to the public university system by proposing $20 million funding increase for the Alaskan community colleges, which are also known as “community campuses.” Dunleavy’s budget proposal is an attempt to trim the state deficit by $1.3 billion, but it has been met with stiff resistance from University of Alaska officials and other affected government agency officials.

University of Alaska president Jim Johnsen said that Dunleavy’s proposed budget cut for his employer is the biggest cut in the history of the University of Alaska, which has been in existence for a century. Johnsen also said that the proposed cuts would lead to the firing of at least 1,300 faculty and staff members and would allegedly jeopardize research efforts at the university. Johnsen claimed that the university has been operating on a lean budget as-is, and this proposal would gut the university further.

Johnsen sounded the alarm, claiming, “Cuts at this level cannot simply be managed or accommodated” because the cuts “will devastate university programs and services” and would negatively impact the state. Johnsen also believed that the lower spending on the university “will hurt Alaska’s economic competitiveness now and long into the future.”

Dunleavy pointed out that by funding community campuses, it costs $8,210 per student, compared to $25,336 per student in the University of Alaska system.