University of Alaska President Pat Pitney spoke to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce Luncheon at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Thursday, March 3, 2022, emphasizing the system's importance to the state's workforce. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

UA seeks to rebuild enrollment

UA Pres: Infrastructure jobs are coming, Alaskans could fill them

University of Alaska President Pat Pitney delivered her State of the University address at the Juneau Chamber of Commerce Luncheon, emphasizing the benefits the university brings to the state’s workforce.

Pitney on Thursday told the chamber the UA system was ready to train Alaska’s workers at all levels, from work certifications to doctorate programs and the school was working to build enrollment. The system had slimmed down following state budget cuts and the COVID-19 pandemic, but had the support of the Alaska State Legislature and Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

“The support we are receiving from the governor and the Legislature are all signs we’re headed in the right direction,” Pitney said.

Pitney said jobs were increasingly demanding some kind of education or certification but that there was also a strong correlation between education and higher wages.

“As the U.S. was emerging from COVID the first time, the overall economy added in one month 916,000 jobs, Pitney said. “Only 7,000 went to workers with only a high school diploma.”

[Pitney: UA ready to train Alaska’s workforce]

The university was working to make programs affordable and accessible, Pitney said, and she asked the audience, which included lawmakers and business leaders, to support UA and encourage enrollment among all ages. With the bipartisan infrastructure bill and increased demand for domestic mining, Alaska will have a lot of jobs that need filling.

“We need every Alaskan of working age to take advantage of the jobs that are going to be coming here,” Pitney said.

The university was advocating for the establishment of the Higher Education Investment Fund, which in 2019 was folded into the state’s general fund and subject to yearly budget debates. A group of UA students recently lost a case challenging the Dunleavy administration’s decision to move the HEIF, but have appealed the ruling to the Alaska Supreme Court.

Pitney said Alaska has some of the lowest completion rates for federal Free Application for Federal Student Aid grants, which she said was Alaska’s biggest untapped resource. If Alaskans filled out the FASFA form at the average national rate, Pitney said, students would have $8 million more to pay for higher education.

In addition to sectors like resources and fisheries, the university was expanding its programs to include mariculture, finance and aerial drones.

Research has shown UA graduates are more likely to stay in the state, Pitney said, and the university was the key to growing an Alaskan workforce.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

More in News

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File
The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014.
Aurora Forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of March. 19

This September 2015, photo provided by NOAA Fisheries shows an aerial view of adult female Southern Resident killer whale (J16) swimming with her calf (J50). New research suggests that inbreeding may be a key reason that the Pacific Northwest’s endangered population of killer whales has failed to recover despite decades of conservation efforts. The so-called “southern resident” population of orcas stands at 73 whales. That’s just two more than in 1971, after scores of the whales were captured for display in marine theme parks around the world. (NOAA Fisheries / Vancouver Aquarium)
The big problem for endangered orcas? Inbreeding

Southern resident killer whales haven’t regularly interbred with other populations in 30 generations.

Juneau Brass Quintet co-founding member Bill Paulick along with Stephen Young performs “Shepherd’s Hey” to a packed house at the Alaska State Museum on Saturday as part of the quintet’s season-ending performance. Friends of the Alaska State Library, Archives and Museum sponsored the event with proceeds going to the musicians and FoSLAM. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
Top brass turns out for event at State Museum

Free performance puts a capt on a busy season.

Alaska’s state legislators are slated to get the equivalent of 6,720 additional $5 bills in their salary next year via a $33,600 raise to a total of $84,000 due to a veto Monday by Gov. Mike Dunleavy of bill rejecting raises for legislative and executive branch employees. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey, File)
Veto negates rejection of pay hikes for governor, legislators

Dunleavy clears way for 67% hike in legislative pay, 20% in his to take effect in coming months

On Thursday, the Alaska State Board of Education approved a resolution that supports barring transgender female students from participating in girls’ sports. (Getty Images illustration via Alaska Beacon)
State school board supports barring transgender female students from participating in girls’ sports

On Thursday, the Alaska State Board of Education approved a resolution that… Continue reading

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire 
State Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, asks Randy Bates, director of the Division of Water for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, about state water quality regulations some fish hatcheries are calling harmful during a Senate Finance Committee meeting Friday. The meeting was to review the DEC’s proposal to take over responsibility for many federal Clean Water Act permits, claiming it will be more responsible and efficient for development projects. Some of the senators questioned both the cost of the state taking over a process currently funded by the federal government, as well as the state’s ability to properly due to the job within the guidelines for such a takeover.
Wading into rule change proposals affecting clean water

National PFAS limits, state takeover of wetlands permits raise doubts about who should take charge

Guy Archibald collects clam shell specimens on Admiralty Island. Archibald was the lead author of a recently released study that linked a dramatic increase of lead levels in Hawk Inlet’s marine ecosystem and land surrounding it on Admiralty Island to tailings released from the nearby Hecla Greens Creek Mine. (Courtesy Photo / John Neary)
New study links mine to elevated lead levels in Hawk Inlet

Hecla Greens Creek Mine official ardently refutes the report’s findings.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Saturday, March 18, 2023

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

HP Marshall of Boise State University takes a photo of Alaska’s North Slope north of the Brooks Range during a snow survey as part of a NASA experiment. (Courtesy Photo / Sveta Stuefer)
Alaska Science Forum: Dozens descend upon Alaska to measure snow

“We would like to be able to map the water-equivalent (in snow) globally.”

Most Read