Alaska is Destroying Its University System

Primary blame lies with the governor, but the legislature has failed:

The impasse over the Alaska system’s budget isn’t over yet. But on Friday the university officially lost 41 percent of its state funding in one fell swoop, as lawmakers failed to override Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy’s big cut to the system. Legislators in both the House and the Senate adjourned until next Wednesday, well past the Friday-night deadline for overriding Dunleavy’s line-item vetoes of the state budget.

Let me note that this is completely bonkers. Even if there were a case for shrinking the system in a variety of ways (but to half its size?!), there’s almost no more damaging ways than a fast, brutal slash:

Across the system, no one is hiring, no one is traveling, and no one is buying anything, unless it’s absolutely necessary. Officials are scrubbing any organizational memberships that cost money. About 2,500 staff members have been sent furlough notices, requiring them to take 10 unpaid days off during the year.

This is not forced on the state at all, it’s purely a political decision by the governor using a line item veto.

Which just shows how fucking stupid line item veto are esp with a challenging override mechanism.

I loved this bit of the budget memo (which really is bonkers):

While the University has consistently claimed that the Governor’s proposed budget would require it to close an entire campus, that is not at all clear. For instance, the University could consolidate its two engineering schools into one school in Fairbanks. It could consolidate its arts and sciences programs into one school in Anchorage. It could consolidate its business management programs into one school in Anchorage. And so on. Location disruption for students can be mitigated by live-streaming classes.

AND SO ON?!?!?! Well that’s a well thought out blueprint. Things aren’t clear but instead of working out a plan, let’s slash and pretend things will work out!


One thing that really pissed me off is that I’m on board with complaining about top heavy administration…but it’s very unclear that this will fix that. It’s not like consolidation is needed to cut overpaid administrators! I mean, the redundancy isn’t the core problem!

Universities beware! High priced administrators will not save you and, indeed, will be used as a stick to beat you. Rebalance on your own terms.