UA President Pat Pitney delivers 2023 State of the University address
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - For the first time in nine years, Alaska’s university system is not anticipating a substantial budget cut from the state.
That’s according to University of Alaska (UA) President Pat Pitney, who delivered her annual State of the University address to the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce at the Westmark on Tuesday, February 21.
The address covered statistics from the state’s three universities: Fairbanks, Anchorage and Southeast. Pitney sounded a hopeful note for the future of university enrollment of the state and the impact that will have on local economies.
“I’m thrilled to share the University of Alaska has turned the corner. We have fiscal stability for the first time in nine years, and this spring, a growing student body,” Pitney said, adding, “Last year, we reached the highest ever levels of externally-funded research, and we are about to eclipse that again this year.”
Pitney sounded a positive note for developments in the university system going forward.
Among the accomplishments of the last year, Pitney mentioned a legislative victory that may lead to more land for the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
However, she said it will take time to properly monetize this development. “After decades without land for our land grant university, at the end of last session, Lisa Murkowski masterfully got congress to pass the University of Alaska Fiscal Foundation Act. As a result, UA can now work with DNR [Department of Natural Resources] and BLM [Bureau of Land Management] to triple our current land holdings to over 500 thousand acres.”
In the last ten years, Pitney says Alaskan universities have awarded 44 thousand degrees and certificates, and enrollment is going up starting in the spring.
She emphasized the value of universities for their communities, saying nationally 80 percent of people that attend a university settle down within 100 miles of their alma mater.
This, she explains, is especially valuable in light of the worker shortage the state is facing. “Today, we have 25 thousand fewer working-age adults in Alaska than we did ten years ago. We are facing an acute shortage in key sectors of our communities: teaching, health care, CPAs [Certified Public Accountants] and construction workers, just to name a few. Our universities are a big part of the solution to meet those workforce needs.”
According to Pitney, Alaska has more citizens per capita who have started a degree program without finishing than any other state.
A possible solution, she pointed out, is a scholarship program, currently offered at the University of Alaska Anchorage, which helps students complete a degree program.
The full State of the University address can be found here.
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