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Alaska fears "brain drain" after 41 percent proposed a cut in the university system



Greg Knight lived all his life in Alaska.

Here he went to school, raised his family and planned to retire. But after Governor Mike Dunleavy's recent veto against the state budget, which saved $ 130 million for the University of Alaska system, Knight said he may have to leave his beloved state.

When he heard the news, he started packing The House, where he has been in Anchorage for 20 years.

"It's heartbreaking," he said, but there are no such jobs in the state. "If that goes away, I could feel unemployed within 60 days."

53-year-old Knight is Finance Manager at the University of Alaska Anchorage. A job that he does not believe he can keep up with. "I have to leave Alaska," he said.

If Dunleavy has his way, the university will have to cut 1

,300 jobs, close entire campuses, dismiss a permanent faculty, and close academic programs. "We may not even be able to mow the lawn," University Chancellor Cathy Sandeen told NBC News.

Legislators and university administrators knew that the state would cut $ 5 million from the budget, which appeared manageable and predictable given the fact that Alaska had cut its financial resources over four of the past five years. The additional $ 130 million added to the republican governor's veto, which represents a 41 percent cut in government funding, blinded the university.

State legislation has until 12 July to lift the veto, but requires the support of three-quarters of lawmakers. Government experts say it's going to be a tough fight and they need to whip up the votes fast – at the moment it depends on about six undecided Republicans.

If the cuts happen, "the university will change drastically overnight," Sandeen said. She and others say that Knight is not the only person who will leave the state and fears an impending "brain drain".

"It would take decades to remedy this damage," Sandeen said. "We would see a decrease in student enrollment.

Sandeen, who has been working in public higher education across the country for the past 30 years, said," I have never seen cuts of this magnitude before. "

Alaska is not alone in its fight for state funding for its higher education system, and research from the Center for Budgetary and Policy Priorities found that 45 countries received state funding well below pre-recession levels in 2018 Increasing tuition, reducing academic opportunities and services for students, and keeping low-income students enrolled as student debt increases, however, the location of the northernmost state is unique, both in terms of geography and the sheer size of the incisions.

The University of Alaska system has three campuses and 16 campuses, some of which are not accessible by land, and a large proportion of the students, who are on average 25, work during their studies and commute to the nearest regional campus Hauptcam Pusses have only one student dorm on campus of five to ten percent. Around 16 percent of the students who joined the system in the fall of 2018 were Alaskan natives, many of whom would like to remain in their tribal country while studying. When the cutbacks go through, the regional locations are closed and students do not have to go anywhere else.

The cuts worry Sandeen for many reasons, but she focuses on her "human cost" loss of 700 jobs. "There will be no 700 replacement jobs for these people," she said. "Meanwhile, in the lower 48 states, the economy and the labor market are hot."

Jim Johnsen, president of the University of Alaska system, has the same concerns. The population in Alaska is declining and the state's unemployment rate is the highest in the country at 6.4 percent. According to Johnsen, the isolation of the state aggravates this problem.

"When we lay off people, they will not cross the street and get another job with another company because we are." Alaska has almost no four-person-year-institutions, and what it has are tiny ones and religiously affiliated schools.

The Presidential Candidate of the University of Alaska Jim Johnsen, left, welcomes 2015 representatives in Juneau, Alaska. Michael Penn / Juneau Empire on AP file

Dunleavy's office did not respond to a request for comment, but recently said, "In recent years, we've spent $ 14 billion on savings to power the government This situation is, as everyone agrees, unsustainable. "

When the cutbacks go through, Johnsen will have to cut out entire programs and highly skilled and university researchers will leave. Even more, the students will go to other countries for their higher education, especially because Alas. "Ka teaches reciprocally with other Western states, which worries Johnsen, who believes that the cuts will worsen the" brain drain "- only Twenty percent of students leaving Alaska return to higher education upon graduation.

Given the disorderly state education system, he fears that this is more than just a coincidence in a brain drain.

"It is a brain gusher, "he said.

Alaska-based programs are also discontinued, many of which are located primarily in Alaska native communities and offer programs in native languages ​​and Alaskan culture One of the many reasons why the cuts are made by Sara Eliza Johnson, an English professor at the University of Alaska Fa irbanks are concerned to receive high quality education outside the state and to stay at home to participate in their cultural communities. "

" The wave effect will be devastating, "she said.

Knight said he was, I hope not to override the veto and get ready to launch his Anchorage house. He and his wife are considering moving to Oklahoma, where they have a family, or to Oregon, where he sees job opportunities.

"I am an accountant and have spent my life working with numbers," he said. "But it's also about the people of the state."


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