Alaska Delegation Introduces Legislation to Provide Long Term Fiscal Stability for University of Alaska

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski, Dan Sullivan, and Rep. Don Young, all R-Alaska, introduced, in both the Senate and House of Representatives, the University of Alaska Fiscal Foundation Act. The legislation fulfills the University of Alaska’s promise as a land grant university with sufficient lands to generate revenues that help support its students and operations. The University of Alaska (UA) currently has one of the smallest land endowments—just 110,000 acres—of any applicable institution of higher education. As with many land issues in Alaska, original congressional intent has been eroded by a complex history of federal laws and adverse court rulings. In this instance, the State of Alaska (State) is prevented from being able to directly convey additional lands to UA from its own entitlement as Congress had initially intended.

Specifically, this legislation resolves the University of Alaska’s (UA’s) unfulfilled land grant by allowing UA and the State to jointly identify up to 500,000 acres for potential conveyance, which the Department of the Interior (DOI) will survey. The State and UA will then work with DOI to transfer up to 360,000 acres in total to UA. Any land ultimately transferred to UA would be deducted from Alaska’s outstanding statehood lands entitlement, which still totals several million acres. The bill was developed in collaboration with UA and the State.

Click here for text of the legislation.

“As we continue to navigate these unprecedented times, we know the University of Alaska will continue to play a critical role by providing quality education to our state’s next generation of leaders,” said Senator Murkowski. “This legislation will not only fulfill the University of Alaska’s land grant for the benefit of its students, but through the ability to generate its own revenue will help provide long-term financial security. A permanent foundation to help support higher education in Alaska is key to a healthy and vibrant future for our state.”

“The University of Alaska, like so many other institutions in Alaska, was hit hard by the pandemic, and continues to face significant fiscal challenges as a result,” said Senator Sullivan. “Finally fulfilling the University’s promise as a land grant university with sufficient lands to achieve its mission will better enable the institution to support itself and continue to educate our state’s next generation of leaders. I’m glad to join Senator Murkowski and Congressman Young in introducing this legislation to break through decades-long hurdles that have prevented the University from accessing the land it needs to secure a strong future.”

“There is light at the end of the tunnel. As we work to get our lives and economy back to normal, we must rebuild our workforce by ensuring that our universities can help young people receive the education and training necessary to secure good jobs,” said Congressman Young. “The University of Alaska Fiscal Foundation Act is an important bill which will provide this essential institution with resources and revenue to support Alaska's students. Our state is well-known for being able to balance resource development with environmental protection, and the University of Alaska should be empowered to responsibly utilize its lands for the benefit of students. I am very grateful for the support of Senator Murkowski, Senator Sullivan, and Governor Dunleavy, and I will continue working to secure a bright future for the next generation of Alaskans.”

“As we continue work to get Alaska’s economy back on its feet following the COVID-19 pandemic, my administration, along with Alaska’s congressional delegation, is focused on creating opportunities for Alaskans. The University of Alaska Fiscal Foundation Act will create opportunities for its students and the university to grow,” said Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy. “I thank Senator Murkowski, Senator Sullivan and Congressman Young for their continued efforts on this important legislation. This vital piece of legislation will provide for the continuation of higher education by placing productive lands into active management to generate recurring revenues, supporting the University of Alaska. This is exactly what Congress intended in the creation of land grant universities and it is time this intent is realized.”

“The university is grateful to our congressional delegation for its continued support on this very important legislation. The Governor and the Alaska Legislature also have voiced their unified support for its passage,” said University of Alaska Interim President Pat Pitney. “We believe this legislation would provide for the long-term stable funding for the university and would finally bring an end to our status as a land grant university without the land. We will work hard for its passage.”

The Alaska State Senate passed a resolution in support of this legislation.

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