Today we printed a Ketchikan Daily News editorial suggesting Sen. Pete Kelly's SB74, which would establish a University Building fund, like the Alaska Public Building fund, would be a great way to reduce expenses and debt for the State of Alaska.
"Collecting rent from the departments is an important feature of the fund because the university will encourage better use of space..." Kelly is reported to have said in this editorial.
Kelly's suggestion might save the state money but I can tell you it isn't going to be because the university system has rented out office space to pinch pennies. University of Alaska President Pat Gamble has no problem raising tuition and it is students and their families who will pay.
University of Alaska tuition has basically doubled in the past decade, while the median income of Alaskans most certainly has not. It's also notable that while the median annual income is listed as $69,014 for 2007-2011, the per capita income is less than half that at $31,944 a year.
According to 2010 U.S. census data, 27.2 percent of Alaska residents hold bachelor's degrees or higher, a full percentage point below the national average. I hear a lot of talk about encouraging Alaska's youth to seek education beyond high school, whether it be a bachelor's degree or votech training, regardless of their socieconomic status, but can Alaskans afford it if tuition hikes continue at a rate that so greatly exceeds income growth?
As a university graduate of the last decade, I can attest to the sometimes overwhelming burden of student loan debt. Even with merit-based, income-based and additional scholarships and grants, most of my college bills were covered by loans that I'll be paying off over the course of many years.
It's crazy to think how university tuition continues to rise while families continue to struggle with offering their children the best opportunities.
According to the Ketchikan Daily News editorial, SB74 is the "type of legislation that will help to reduce expenses during this time of reduced spending and lower oil-tax revenue," and I found myself wondering if this was satire or a real suggestion to leave the tab for our kids.