Last week, a House Finance subcommittee approved an amendment to Gov. Bill Walker’s budget proposal that — if passed — would add $19 million to the University of Alaska’s 2019 fiscal budget. Gov. Walker proposed $317 million for UA, the same amount it received for fiscal 2018.
Rep. Adam Wool, D-Fairbanks, introduced the amendment, reasoning that UA is a vital part of Alaska’s future, and he is right. With the decline of oil revenue and the subsequent recession in Alaska, politicians of various stripes have spoken about the need to diversify the state’s economy. No doubt Alaska needs a skilled workforce to accomplish this goal, and it will remain elusive if lawmakers continue to divest in the UA system.
“In a nutshell, they’ve been cut for years, and this year they’re projected to be flat funded,” Rep. Wool said about UA. “They’re hurting, and I want to help them out as much as possible.”
At the University of Alaska Fairbanks alone, 574 employees were cut between fall 2014 and fall 2017. That’s 574 positions lost at one of Fairbanks’ greatest economic drivers. As UA President Jim Johnsen noted last week during his State of the University address in Anchorage, every dollar the state spends at UA generates $2 in the economy.
You don’t have to look far to see how the University of Alaska has positively influenced the Fairbanks community and the state.
Many of our business leaders have attended UAF’s School of Management. Just last week, President Johnsen announced the creation of a new business incubator at UAF that will partner entrepreneurs with scientific researchers in hopes of launching new businesses.
Five Olympic athletes competed for University of Alaska teams, including two former University of Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks: Tyler Kornfield and Logan Hanneman.
Scientific research conducted at the University of Alaska brings constant waves of applicable knowledge. UAF geophysics professor Regine Hock’s recent work researching declining glaciers across the world shed’s light on how water availability will change during the next century. Although much of research is federally funded, new researchers often need seed money to begin their work before they are awarded federal grants. During his address last week, President Johnsen also said that every dollar the state puts toward research at the university generates $4.
The list of accomplishments and benefits coming out of UAF and UA as a whole goes on and on.
The bottom: It’s time for our state lawmakers to reinvest in the University of Alaska. It’s a driver of business, science, technology, art, culture, sports and the economy. The House and Senate should work together and support an increased budget for the university this year.
— Fairbanks Daily News-Miner,