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JUNEAU – Today, Governor Dunleavy took unprecedented action and swept the Alaska Higher Education Investment Fund, which funds Alaska Performance Scholarships (APS), Alaska Education Grants (AEG), and the WWAMI Regional Medical Education Program into the Constitutional Budget Reserve (CBR) account, eliminating funding for these programs. The Higher Education Investment Fund had over $340 million in assets that spun off earnings to fund merit and needs-based scholarships for qualified young Alaskans.
“This is yet another deliberate attack on education and opportunities for young Alaskans by Governor Dunleavy,” said Senator Tom Begich (D-Anchorage). “If you stand with the Governor on this action, you do not stand for opportunities for Alaskans.”
By overwhelming margins, the Alaska Legislature passed a budget this year adding funds to the Higher Education Investment Fund to support the three programs. To maintain the funds, the Legislature needed to pass a “reverse sweep” budget provision preventing state accounts from being deposited into the Constitutional Budget Reserve fund. During the final days of the budget process, the House Republican Minority, a 15-member caucus out of 60 legislators, unilaterally failed the motion to accept the reverse sweep. This action by the House Republican Minority prevented passage of the essential language, handing Governor Dunleavy the authority to all but eliminate performance scholarships, education grants, and the medical school financial assistance. This week, the House Republican Minority has refused to come to Juneau for the second special session to finish the people’s work.
“Over 5,000 students benefit from these educational funding programs. We owe it to them to provide stability throughout their educational tenure and give them the opportunities to become entrepreneurs, educators, and leaders in this great state,” said Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage).
Nearly one-in-five degree-seeking students receive the merit-based Alaska Performance Scholarship, and more than 1 in 10 degree-seeking students received needs-based Alaska Education Grant financial aid, totaling roughly $15 million of the annual $22 million in earnings from the Higher Education Investment Fund. Altogether, APS and AEG support more 30% of University of Alaska students, and WWAMI funding assists 80 Alaskans with attending medical school.
“These are smart investments in young Alaskans, which they have earned. Failure to address this will continue to drive young people from this state and cause a brain-drain in our economy,” said Sen. Wielechowski. “We need to come together as a legislature and fix this.”