Letter to the Editor: What you can do about the budget cuts

By Morgan Wilhelm

On Feb. 13, Gov. Mike Dunleavy released his budget proposal for 2020. This included a 40 percent budget cut for the UA System. This would cause significant damage to UAF, UAA and UAS.

In light of the recent School of Education accreditation fiasco, UAA has been scrambling to restore its reputation as a safe choice for Alaskan students. This budget cut, if passed, would take another chunk out of UAA’s reputation. But what does the cut mean for individual students?

In an effort to balance out some of the lost money, tuition could rise. Undergraduate tuition is a massive driver in the current American student loan crisis and many Alaskan residents choose the UA system because it is incredibly more affordable than universities down south. What happens when tuition is increased? Will some students need to take out more student loans? Will others be forced to drop out? Neither idea is favorable.

At the same time that tuition is rising, the quality of education would be falling. Take a look at any program and you’ll see potential places for a budget cut. Students in STEM could also be affected. Fewer classes will be offered, increasing class size and raising the teacher to student ratio. Non-essential programs will be downsized or shut down. There will likely be a drop in student work positions offered, leaving many current student employees without a means of income. Additionally, students living on campus may  see a significant rise in the cost of their housing.

Fortunately, students do not have to go quietly along with this. State representatives rely on the votes of their constituents and are therefore bound to take their constituents’ opinions into consideration. In a state as small as Alaska, every vote matters and individual residents hold more influence over their representatives than an individual in a more populated state.

It takes less than 10 minutes to contact your representative and make your voice heard. Each district has a representative —  if you don’t know what district you are from, Google it. Find your house and senate representatives and call them. It doesn’t need to be a long conversation. A short and sweet minute-long call is all it takes. If it helps you, you can write out what you want to say.

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If you don’t feel like calling your representative, you can send them a letter. They should have their address to their Juneau office listed. Buy a $1 postcard from Walmart or the campus bookstore, write two sentences on the back of it, and stop by General Support Services to mail it out. A postcard stamp is 35 cents. If you send one to your senator and one to your house representative, that’s only $2.70 spent. For less than three dollars, you can support the University of Alaska system and potentially save yourself thousands of dollars.

Democracy relies on participation. Make your voice heard.

Morgan Wilhelm is the Marketing Representative of The Northern Light. Views expressed in the opinion section do not reflect the views of The Northern Light.