Sunday, September 8, 2019

University of Alaska Going Bankrupt…Like Many State Schools

By Professor Doom

     By the financial measurement standards of the Obama administration, Trump’s presidency has seen an incredible boom in the American economy. Of course, those old standards are rubbish, and many of our states are running huge deficits because the economic numbers, no matter how you manipulate them, can’t change the reality of our failing economy (even as I concede that Trump has done some good, much like putting a balaclava on a snowball would help it last longer in Hell…).

     So today I’m going to take a quick look at University of Alaska, although the gentle reader should understand that many state schools are seeing the same things happen to them:

Financial crisis opens University of Alaska up to layoffs

      Despite its relative isolation from the rest of the country, Alaska is run much like the other 49 states, i.e., incompetently. They need money, fast, and so the state government is withdrawing funding from their higher educational system:

Along with a $5 million cut made by legislators, the university saw its state funding fall by $136 million, a cut of 41%

        Talk about a gutting! This may be a bit more brutal than what other state university systems are seeing, but I’ll withhold judgement on that for a few years. So how does this system respond to this sudden loss of tax loot?

Meeting in an emergency session, regents voted 10-1 to allow administrators to expedite layoffs of tenured faculty,…

      The “regents” referenced above are the Board of Regents, a massive collection of politically connected (and thus very wealthy) people who run the system from the top down. A few points I want to address in that one sentence above:

      First, “tenure” is supposedly a job for life, but, as the gentle reader can see, those precious positions can be easily eliminated…in fact, they’re most likely to be eliminated, since tenured professors tend to be paid more (since they often devoted decades of their lives to the university, in order to get that tenure).

       Administrators don’t have tenure, but, obviously, they don’t need it. As I’ve seen in many dying schools, admin are the last to go.

       Finally, it’s a shame faculty can’t vote here, I suspect the ratio would be better than 10-1 to thin out the ranks of the regents and administrators. Let’s take a quick look at the mission statement here:


The University of Alaska Board of Regents approved UAF's latest mission statement at its June 8, 2012 meeting. The following statement is now contained in UA Board of Regents Policy 01.01.030: 

The University of Alaska Fairbanks is a Land, Sea, and Space Grant university and an international center for research, education, and the arts, emphasizing the circumpolar North and its diverse peoples. UAF integrates teaching, research, and public service as it educates students for active citizenship and prepares them for lifelong learning and careers.

     Hmm. I see nothing in the above that says the point of UoA is to guarantee permanent high paying jobs for the people at the top, but seeing as they’re going directly to firing faculty, it’s clear what the real mission of the school is.

      Just like in many other states, the system is large, and sprawling:

The university has main campuses in Fairbanks, Anchorage and Juneau and 13 satellite campuses. Proportionate reductions would hit UA Fairbanks, where most research facilities are located, with a $67 million reduction. UA Anchorage, which serves the most students, would see a $47 million reduction. UA Southeast would be in line for a $10 million reduction.

      Let’s put these numbers in perspective by considering another statistic: the system has around 35,000 students. Dividing that into the $136 million cut and we see support is being reduced by around $4,000 per student. Total cost of attendance at University of Anchorage (part of the system) runs around $43,000 a year.

       Bottom line, the system could address its financial issues by raising tuition by more than 10%—a big increase to be sure, and likely to cause student complaints…but student loans could make up the difference.

      This is what many state systems have done—withdrawn local taxpayer support and shifted the burden to the Federal taxpayer via loans. I feel for the students here, since the sudden removal of faculty could easily delay getting degrees a semester or two (the cost of this could be offset by that tuition raise, by the way…).

       In any event, the gentle reader should understand that what will happen here is what has happened very time: faculty removed, class sizes get larger, and education is sacrificed to preserve those all-important “leadership” positions. 

       It’s why we have class sizes of over 1,000 now, and why there are more administrators than faculty on campus. Seeing as with every cut, admin get to decide whether to fire themselves, or fire faculty, the latter is no surprise.

       The size of the budget cuts means tough challenges, [Poo-Bah] Johnsen said. “Does one nickel and dime every one of our universities and close some community campuses?” Johnsen said. “Well, you can close all the community campuses and you get to about $30 million. You’ve got [about] another $100 million to go.”

         I feel for the Poo-Bah here, but at least he’s already thinking about shutting down the community college system; I haven’t examined Alaska’s, but every system I’ve looked at has been sketchy at best. I hope, when he’s looking for the other $100 million, he’ll consider getting rid of few hundred administrators; likely he’ll just get rid of a few thousand faculty…but I can hope, at least.


  1. My father was head of his department (astronomy/opitcs) at the U of A in Arizona for many years. Back in those ancient times, the faculty ran the university and rotated who was in charge. Now, it is all run like a corporation that is going bankrupt due to the board of directors and the administrators have no idea how the work is actually done.

  2. I was an adjunct English Professor at Thunderbird University in Phoenix. It was a horrible experience. The administration was very political; hard left. And they hated me because I wasn't. But that wasn't the real problem. Thunderbird was a place with a great deal of potential. They had students from all over the world, a great campus, and some good professors. But the place was run so badly that it was unbelievable. There was absolutely no personal concern for the welfare of the students. They were just a source of money. And get this: If a student had a good idea while attending Thunderbird, that idea belonged to the school, not the student. So no student could safely begin a real project. The administration was made-up entirely of angry, dishonest, old men. It's really a shame that they had so little vision.

    For those who don't know, Thunderbird lost its accreditation, and was sold to Arizona State University. Now it's just a boring business college. If Thunderbird had been run right, there would have been excitement on campus everyday. After all, you've got thousands of brilliant young minds at work. There would be You-Tube debates, new inventions, cooking classes run by students, field trips, camping trips, the works. Those kids would have such a good time that there would be a waiting list a mile long; and the graduates wouldn't want to leave. T-Bird students would be on You-Tube all the time talking about how much they loved the school. But instead, the students got hateful treatment, by mean staff. That's why the school closed. And let's face it, under the control of ASU, Thunderbird will never be anything of value in the future.

    To me, it was a lesson in how not to run a school. Students don't just want classes, they want to learn how to live. That means attending to the whole person; and trying hard to make sure that he or she is happy. Thunderbird didn't care at all if the students were happy. In fact, a lot of them were miserable. All over the country, we've got colleges and universities who could care less about the happiness of their students. The kids are simply seen as a source of revenue. That needs to change. When kids go off to college, they should be offered a complete experience. But no college offers that, because they are run by people who really don't care. Administrators only care about the money. So what we've got are a bunch of horrible universities, run by idiots. We need to find people who really care, who are smart enough to do the job, and who place the happiness and well-being of each student at the top of the list. Both before and after graduation. Believe it or not, that's really the way that it used to be.

  3. When I went to school back over 50 years ago, the state universities wanted to get rid of students. The freshman year was like an intellectual hazing. Since students were subsidized by the taxpayers, only the good ones got to stay. That changed with the student loan scam: now, they want to keep students as long as possible so they tossed out the teaching stuff and put in the fun stuff.