Cole

Dermot Cole





Here is Gov. Mike Dunleavy talking about how the University of Alaska can survive his decision to cut state funding by 40 percent: “I believe that they can turn the university into a smaller, leaner, but still very, very positive, productive university here in the Northern Hemisphere.”

Aside from revealing that he knows the university campuses are north of the Equator, Dunleavy is unable or unwilling to explain his vetoes or provide Alaskans with a vision for higher education. It’s clear he doesn’t have one.

Does he want to close the Anchorage campus? The Fairbanks campus? What programs would he eliminate? He wants to dismantle the system, but he won’t take any responsibility and he hides behind his surrogates, delivering a steady stream of half-truths.

More inside

Dunleavy has no answers. The nonsense he repeated about 12-week computer coding classes being the ticket to a high-tech future for Alaskans—requiring no high school or college degree—helps drive the point home.

“I believe that they can turn the University of Alaska into, if not the finest university of the Arctic, in a few select areas. I don’t think they can be all things to all people. And I think that’s, generally speaking, the state of Alaska. We can’t continue to be all things for all people,” he said at his press conference announcing the veto.

“All things for all people.” This is the political language used by someone who doesn’t have a grasp of the details and dips into a bag of meaningless cliches when something more is required.

The loss of $130 million in state funds would have a much greater impact than Dunleavy will acknowledge. It would lead to lower revenues from federal grants, lower revenues from tuition, and make the university less competitive. It would also put Alaska at a disadvantage in competing for the jobs of the future that Dunleavy claims will be soon be headed our way. It’s a false promise.

During the Dunleavy/Koch Network road show, Dunleavy had temporary budget director Donna Arduin do most of the talking about Alaska’s university. She repeated false and misleading claims and presented bogus statistics to back up the Dunleavy attack on higher education.

She kept referring to the university as a “cost driver” and appeared oblivious to the many ways in which the University of Alaska improves life in Alaska for tens of thousands of people who are not temporarily living in Alaska with a state job.

“We believe the university can do better. And we’ve given them a challenge, a challenge to stop duplication of four-year and graduate programs, for example, and concentrate on the community campuses that are able to serve all of Alaskans and train them for the jobs that are available to them,” Arduin said in Anchorage.

Dunleavy, who has failed to say which of the new engineering buildings in Anchorage and Fairbanks he wants to shut down, may believe that all Alaska needs are community colleges and that there is no place for advanced training or research.

“We have community campuses that are very efficient, but we have some schools that are more expensive. We have a significant number of majors and duplication across the system, so we believe they can do better on both the revenue side and reducing their expenditures and providing degrees that lead to jobs and graduating students,” Arduin said.

“We do have some bright spots in the university, which is our community campuses,” said Arduin. “They provide an efficient education and actually have the ability to train students for real jobs—in Alaska. The university system we’re asking to reduce their duplication of programs, like multiple engineering schools, multiple four-year degrees, multiple graduate programs. The also need to do better at bringing in research dollars.”

During his campaign for governor Dunleavy promised that he would not cut funding for the University of Alaska. He must have thought that’s what people wanted to hear.

Once in office, he changed his story, but never offered a vision for the future of higher education.

His is a monumental failure of leadership.

Dermot Cole can be reached at dermotmcole@gmail.com.

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