Funding university invests in the future

Posted: Sunday, April 02, 2000

An education is one of the most important gifts we can bestow on our children. It is our future because it is education that provides us with the tools to succeed. And it is those countries and states with the best education systems that are the most secure economically.

That's why we're glad to see Rep. Eldon Mulder, an Anchorage Republican, introduced legislation last week to increase funding for the state's university system. Mulder's bill would add $34 million to the school system during the next two years.

It won't be easy, as the money would come from the state's Constitutional Budget Reserve, a savings account holding cash from legal settlements with oil companies. For the past several years, it's been used to make up the deficit between state spending and revenues.

The difficulty is that it requires a three-quarters vote in both the House and Senate, as well as the governor's signature, to tap the account for the university system.

We say use the reserve in this instance. We consider additional funding for higher education an investment in Alaska's future. This is the type of funding that the reserve should be used for.

As University President Mark Hamilton pointed out in a Juneau speech not long ago, the state university is what drives economic development and diversification. Additional funding would support some of the school's key areas, including teacher education, health care, vocational education and its fisheries program.

But additional funding also could help spearhead emerging Alaska industries like information technology and logistics of manufacturing and distributing goods, according to Hamilton.

This could be key for the state by developing new industries as oil continues to decline. The state's advantage, according to Hamilton, is that its geographic location puts it within nine air hours of 90 percent of the world.

While the possibilities are there, they can't be achieved without adequate funding of our university system. We need to make this investment, not only for our children's sake, but for the financial well-being of our state as well.

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