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Thu Aug 15, 2019, 10:56 AM

The University Of Alaska Avoids The Worst As Governor Shows How Not To Govern

Source: Forbes

Aug 14, 2019, 07:53am

The University Of Alaska Avoids The Worst As Governor Shows How Not To Govern

Michael T. Nietzel Senior Contributor
Education
I am a former university president who writes about higher education.

On Tuesday Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy unveiled a new budget plan for the University of Alaska (UA), reversing course from his controversial plan to slash the university’ budget by $135 million in FY 2020. Dunleavy and university leadership reached an agreement that would slice the reduction in half, a $70 million cut spread out over three years ($25 million in each of the next two years, and $20 million in FY 2022).

The deal is the latest development in the back-and-forth between Dunleavy, the Alaska legislature and the University of Alaska system. With it, the immediate budget crisis that led to the University declaring a financial exigency and facing possible loss of accreditation is postponed, but not resolved. Staff reductions, program closures and possible campus consolidation remain on the horizon, and three years is a very short period to absorb what still amounts to a 21% cut in state support.

The Alaska situation has been seen as a national symbol for the defunding of public higher education, a threat that many see lurking under the wings of other conservative governors and legislatures. But more immediately it should be viewed as an example of a governor demonstrating how not to govern, the result of hubris, haste and heedlessness. The Governor’s approach to his state’s budget brings to mind the image of the fire-setter who turns fireman and then wants to be admired for heroism.

The University of Alaska fiasco revealed three fundamental faults in Governor Dunleavy’s approach to governing and the consequences he has brought upon himself as a result.

1. The budget deal might not stand up. The two-page agreement signed by Dunleavy and University officials is problematic on a couple of grounds. First, and most important, the legislature was not a party to it. In Alaska, as in all other states, the power of appropriation rests with the legislature, and while the signed agreement indicates that the governor will “propose, support and permit” the agreed-to budget for the University over the next three years, it binds the legislature to nothing. By failing to include the legislature in the compact, the Governor and University officials inked a deal that may or may not be honored. Second, the agreement specifies commitments the University must make going forward – such as increasing research income and strengthening the role of community campuses. Good luck with those initiatives in the face of $70 million less revenue. The loopholes are there; UA officials better hope the Governor or the legislature doesn’t crawl through them. Those same loopholes give UA ample wiggle room as well.

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Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaeltnietzel/2019/08/14/the-university-of-alaska-avoids-the-worst-as-governor-shows-how-not-to-govern/

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