University of Alaska wants education to strengthen economy
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen said the university hopes to incentivize students to enroll in post-secondary training, thereby contributing to a more sustainable state economy and healthier system.
Johnsen spoke Wednesday at a presentation titled “The Alaskan Economy and Implications on the UA System,” the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported .
Johnsen said post-secondary training could range anywhere from occupational endorsements and certificates to bachelor’s degrees and beyond.
Johnson said he’s concerned that industry jobs might not be around in the future, or, more likely, the majority will require training beyond a high school diploma.
“We have had a relatively high-income, low-education economy for about 40 years,” he said. “Are we going to maintain our incomes by increasing education attainment? Or, worst case, we don’t increase educational attainment.”
Johnsen said only 33 percent of Alaska’s ninth-grade students go on to attend college, far below the national average of 54 percent.
Growth has been difficult for the university recently as 40 percent of its funding, about $317 million, is provided by the state, and, ultimately, oil revenue, the News-Miner reported. The university’s funding has been slashed, resulting in the elimination of 50 degree programs throughout the system, including the economics program.
“Here (Alaska) we are dependent on, as we’ve experienced over the last several years, an unreliable (revenue) source. A source that is itself dependent on pretty much one revenue stream,” Johnsen said.
To attract additional students, the university is considering tuition discounts for occupational endorsements or technical courses and increasing online enrollment, Johnson said.
Currently, 400 people outside Alaska take the university’s classes online, while 6,000 residents take online classes outside the state.
Johnsen is “cautiously optimistic” that the Legislature will appropriate between $323 million and $336 million for next year’s budget, which would eliminate the need for cuts and allow strategic initiative investments.
The strategic initiative, agreed upon by the university’s Board of Regents, runs through 2025 and includes investments in economic development, research, educational attainment and workforce development.
“The Legislature really likes this plan; I think that’s why we’re getting some support this year. ... The whole idea here is to create momentum, to create interest, to create support for us, in enrollment in particular,” Johnsen said.
Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com