THE ANCHORAGE DAILY PLANET
Alaskans should be paying close attention. And they should be more than a little peeved.
The University of Alaska spent half-a-million dollars – $495,000 to be exact – on a PR campaign, “UA Strong,” to keep its state funding after Gov. Mike Dunleavy proposed a $134 million cut in state funding of the institution, KTUU reports.
University officials and supporters fibbed at the time that the cut would amount to 41 percent of the university’s funding; that the university would fail; that the end was near.
Media picked up the fib and repeated it, even in national publications that should have known better.
The proposed cut actually amounted to a 41 percent cut of the Legislature’s proposed $322 million contribution to the university. It would have amounted to something like 17 percent of the university’s complete annual budget, which, counting all revenue streams – including tuition, grants and contracts – hovers near $900 million.
The university, despite is caterwauling to the contrary, is far from broke. “The University of Alaska Foundation manages the Consolidated Endowment Fund totaling $337.5 million, which includes both $191.1 million in Foundation endowments created by gifts from donors over the years, as well as the university’s land grant endowment of $146.4 million,” the foundation says on its website.
While UA and the education industry in Alaska fought to persuade lawmakers to keep the university’s bloated budget in place, the university sought help, KTUU reports. The Anchorage-based agency Brilliant Media Strategies eventually won the bid for the work and the campaign ran from March 6 until the end of the legislative session.
It must have worked. The Legislature approved a budget that shaved only $5 million from state funding for the university. Dunleavy later vetoed an additional $130 million, and the university ran advertisements to raise stink on six Anchorage and Fairbanks TV stations and 26 radio stations.
The governor later signed an agreement with Board of Regents Chair John Davies that would cut $70 million from the university’s budget over three years, instead of $135 million in one.
It is unseemly to us that a university – or any government agency or entity, state or local, for that matter – would essentially put on an expensive, full-court press PR campaign for more government money to spend and play fast and loose with the truth along the way.
We suppose it should come as no surprise. As always with Alaska’s education industry, when you ask how much it needs, the answer is always, “more.”