Governor’s Cuts to UA Prompt Change of Course for Nome Students

Governor Mike Dunleavy’s $130 million in cuts to the University of Alaska (UA) system on top of $5 million in cuts from the legislature has prompted some incoming UA students to make tough decisions about where they will go to school.

While the UA Board of Regents decides how to proceed in terms of finances and accreditations, current and potential UA students are waiting to hear about their future. Caroline Proulx, the College and Career Guide at Nome-Beltz High School, estimates that about fifteen Nome-Beltz graduates from 2019 will be affected.

Two of these students are Ethan Ahkvaluk and Dawson Evans.

Ahkvaluk is the first one in his family to be accepted into college, but his plan to study marine biology at the University of Alaska–Southeast (UAS) has been interrupted.

“I was very sad because I wanted to go to college and continue four more years of education.”

With the future of his studies uncertain, Ahkvaluk will look for work instead, hoping to reapply to the UA system next semester. But he says that depends on the status of the university system after budget cuts are finalized. When KNOM reached out to UAS for comment, a representative stated that the marine biology program is, as things stand currently, going to be offered in the fall. The representative also said that it is unknown which programs will be consolidated or eliminated before September, when the Board of Regents makes its budget decisions.

Dawson Evans is in a slightly different position. Evans says he was shocked when he heard about the university cuts on the news.

“So, my college plans were to attend UAA’s professional piloting program, and I was planning to do two years there and then come back to Nome and fly.”

The uncertainty with accreditation in the University of Alaska system changed his course.

“UAA system sent out an email saying that their classes are going to keep going for five more years, but we don’t know if it’ll be accredited.”

Evans now plans to head to a community college in Hawaii to be near family and complete his general education requirements. He hopes to attend a flight school afterwards.

With the Alaska House’s 23-15 approval of House Bill 2001 this week, the bill is now being sent to the governor’s office. As it stands, HB 2001 includes the restoration of $110 million to Alaska’s universities.

The governor has 15 days to sign the bill once it is sent to his office. If the Legislature adjourns the special session before the bill is transmitted, he has 20 days to sign it.

Corrections and updates: After conferring a second time with Mr. Ahkvaluk, he stated that he is the first in his family to be accepted into college, not the first to graduate high school, as he originally described and as KNOM reported. The University of Alaska–Southeast also clarified that, while its marine biology program does still exist (contrary to our original report), it is unknown at this time what programs or classes will be eliminated, pending the resolution of UA budget allocations from the state government and the UA Board of Regents’ meeting this September, at which budget and academic program decisions will be made. This story has been updated and corrected to match this latest information.

Image at top: The University of Alaska Board of Regents met at UAA to discuss restructuring the university in the face of budget cuts on July 30, 2019. Photo: Marc Lester / ADN; sourced with permission.