ACE Calls on Alaska Legislature to Override Higher Education Cuts
July 08, 2019

​The cuts would cause long-term damage to the state's social fabric and economic future, said ACE President Ted Mitchell

ACE President Ted Mitchell has urged the Alaska State Legislature to override the governor’s budget veto and change course on the proposed draconian cut to the state’s public higher education system.

Mitchell sent a lett​er​ this morning to state lawmakers, who are scheduled to convene today for a week-long special session to decide whether to override a total of $444 million in budget vetoes issued by Gov. Mike Dunleavy. One of the main focuses of the cuts was public higher education, with the governor vetoing $130 million allotted for the University of Alaska system, a nearly 41 percent decline in state funding, the Los Angeles Times noted.

“The evidence is indisputable: A college degree is the springboard to economic success and social mobility for millions of Americans,” Mitchell wrote. “I understand that Alaska is grappling with tough decisions and weighing competing priorities. But gutting the state’s universities is a short-term step in the wrong direction, one that would trigger a series of damaging long-term after-shocks to the state’s social fabric and economic future.”

“Like all state university systems, Alaska’s specializes in research and education in areas unique to its state’s needs, such as, in your case, fisheries, mining, petroleum, and natural-resource development,” Mitchell added. “All of those programs will suffer if these cuts are made.”

The bottom line is that a 41 percent cut to Alaska higher education is virtually unprecedented in its severity and, “is the wrong decision, one that would send a message nationally that the state is effectively turning its back on higher education and that would lead only to a deep dive to the bottom for Alaska residents that would take many years to climb out of,” Mitchell concluded.

University of Alaska Anchorage Chancellor Cathy Sandeen told N​BC News​ that if the governor’s cuts are not overturned, “the university will drastically change overnight,” leading to a devastating “brain drain” as students and other residents leave the state.

“It would take decades to reverse this damage,” Sandeen said.