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Disclosure: UA Advocacy February 9, 2009

Posted by roothogreport in Legislature.
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I really should have mentioned this before, especially in the light of the Anna Fairclough story, but somehow I didn’t think to.

I have been selected by UAF’s student government (of which I am not a member) to take part in the University of Alaska’s advocacy efforts in Juneau.

The trip will take place later this month, and I plan to report on the process both here and for UAF’s weekly student newspaper, the Sun Star.  It should be an interesting trip for me, as I’ve never been to Juneau before.  It’s one thing to talk to legislators on the phone, and entirely another to talk to them in person.  I’ve heard it’s beautiful down there, and that they’ve been getting a ton of snow.  I’m excited.

In case you’re wondering what exactly we’re advocating for, the short answer is full funding for the university.  To expand a bit, we’ll be asking for increases in maintenance allocations (the governor’s budget only allocated $10 million of a requested $50 million for upkeep of existing facilities), funding for a life science research and teaching facility at UAF (which has been UA’s number one capital funding priority for at least five years and has thus far received no funding), funding for K-12 outreach programs (did you know that Alaska has the worst high-school-to-college matriculation rate of any state in the nation?), and a host of other budget issues related to education.

I don’t expect that this trip (for which the university will foot the bill) to substantially change my opinion on education issues- I’m already a pretty strong proponent of education funding, which is probably why I was selected to go- but I did think that anyone who reads this blog deserves to know about the trip.

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1. Chris Benshoof - February 9, 2009

“did you know that Alaska has the worst high-school-to-college matriculation rate of any state in the nation?”

I’d be careful about drawing to strong of conclusions on this statistic (which is cited from where?). The State also has a large percentage of it’s students in low-income, rural environments that do not as easily prepare students for higher education – let alone promote it.

I’d also argue that this State provides numerous opportunities for 18-25 year olds to earn a decent wage without a college education. Working on the North Slope, summer construction jobs, and other certification-based/apprenticeship programs are likely more attractive to many Alaskan High School graduates & dropouts than the high cost and short-term dissatisfaction of the UA system’s “higher education”.

roothogreport - February 10, 2009

The info on high school & college graduation levels came from the Department of Education, as reported here:
http://www.adn.com/education/story/590870.html

Sorry I didn’t link it at first. That’s a good article- it has some other pertinent – and scary – figures about Alaska education and dropout rates.

I absolutely agree that part of the reason for the high dropout/low matriculation rate here is due to availability of good jobs that don’t necessarily require even a high school degree. But if we’re talking about funding for the apprenticeship programs that make those jobs possible, many of those programs (for diesel mechanics, pilots, welders, EMTs, nurses, et cetera) are conducted by the university as well. We’ve got an extremely broad-based university, and it encompasses a lot more than the four-year degrees that people usually think of when they think of a college experience.

Also, while people in those trades- construction, oilfield and mining development, say- make a decent living, the university also provides the top-tier job candidates for those industries- the structural and civil and petrochemical engineers, the geologists and the resource managers. If we’re going to keep as much money in the state as we can, we want to be producing the people who will fill these high-dollar jobs too. We need to be training Alaskans to run Alaskan industries- and, in large part, that’s what the university does.

2. Chris Benshoof - February 11, 2009

The article clarifies a lot.

It does not claim that “Alaska has the worst high-school-to-college matriculation rate of any state in the nation”, but rather said that Alaska ranks 50th, or last, in the number of ninth-graders who will likely have a bachelor’s degree in 10 years, according to the commission.

This is a huge difference. That means that Alaska has the lowest rate of students earning bachelor’s degrees in 6 years or less. I was barely on the edge of that statistic (finishing in 6 years at UAF) and many more of my friends and peers have taken longer than 6.

I agree that it is a horrible statistic for the State. There’s no doubt about that. I also agree that further funding for education is a big step – but I’m not convinced that the funding needs to go towards the UA system rather than the K-12 public education system. If the problem reaches as far back as elementary and middle school, pushing more funding into the University of Alaska (even a program designed to assist matriculation) will likely have a small effect.

I’m a big fan of education. The K-12 system is solid in many areas of the state and is struggling significantly in others. The UA system is strong in some areas, and amazingly weak in others as well… I just baulk at seemingly procrustean arguments over financing.


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