Legislature(1999 - 2000)

05/16/1999 10:20 AM House FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 167(FIN)                                                                                                 
An Act relating to scholarships to attend the                                                                                   
University of Alaska; and providing for an effective                                                                            
SEANTOR GARY WILKEN commented that the University of Alaska                                                                     
Board of Regents has established the Alaska Scholars                                                                            
Program.  Under the program, scholarships are awarded to the                                                                    
top 10 percent of Alaska's high school students to attend                                                                       
the University of Alaska.  A recipient receives the                                                                             
scholarship for up to four years, provided the student                                                                          
successfully completes a full-time certificate or degree                                                                        
program.  The award in the amount of $1,350 per semester may                                                                    
be used for tuition, fees, room, board, books,                                                                                  
transportation and other education expenses.                                                                                    
Senator Wilken noted that the legislation would guarantee                                                                       
that the Alaska Scholars Program continue and that bright                                                                       
and talented students will be encouraged to attend the                                                                          
University of Alaska.  He urged the Committee's support of                                                                      
the bill.                                                                                                                       
In response to Representative Grussendorf, Senator Wilken                                                                       
pointed out that the fiscal note indicates a scholarship for                                                                    
$2,700/year for 4 years to the University of Alaska for                                                                         
those students who met the criteria.  The fiscal note                                                                           
assumes that 25% of potentially eligible graduates will take                                                                    
advantage of this program in FY00, and that 50% of                                                                              
potentially eligible graduates will take advantage of the                                                                       
program each year thereafter.                                                                                                   
Representative Austerman spoke in support of the                                                                                
legislation, however, voiced caution not to forget the                                                                          
remaining 90% of high school students.  He urged that those                                                                     
graduating students should be encouraged to reach for higher                                                                    
education and that perhaps community colleges should be                                                                         
expanded.  Senator Wilken hoped that the 10% group would act                                                                    
as a magnet to their other school friends considering                                                                           
college choices.  He added that the K-14 initiative is a                                                                        
project proposed by President Hamilton.                                                                                         
Co-Chair Mulder questioned language in Section 2, "Finance                                                                      
notice and approval".                                                                                                           
WENDY REDMAN, VICE PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA,                                                                             
FAIRBANKS, explained that was a technical change.  It refers                                                                    
to Section 1, which changes nothing.                                                                                            
Representative J. Davies asked if the program was codified                                                                      
any place in statute.  Senator Wilken replied that the                                                                          
original legislation spoke to general fund appropriations,                                                                      
and that language had been removed.  However, it is still                                                                       
recognized through the presence of the bill.                                                                                    
Co-Chair Mulder asked how many full time employees (FTE)                                                                        
were employed throughout the University of Alaska system.                                                                       
Ms. Redman replied that there are about 16,000 FTE's system-                                                                    
wide; in Anchorage there are 7,500, and Fairbanks with                                                                          
4,000; the balance is spread throughout the system.                                                                             
Baccalaureate tuition program costs are a little below the                                                                      
national average; the community college programs are very                                                                       
high, approximately double that of other western states.                                                                        
Representative J. Davies advised that many students take                                                                        
advantage of the lower division courses through the                                                                             
community college system and that fees hikes are having a                                                                       
dramatic effect in loss of students which the State is                                                                          
experiencing.  That is a serious issue.                                                                                         
Ms. Redman agreed with Representative J. Davies regarding                                                                       
the cost crisis.  The other big factor relative to the cost                                                                     
in this State is that communities do not help pay.  There is                                                                    
no local participation or payment from either Anchorage or                                                                      
Fairbanks.  She recommended that issue be addressed.                                                                            
Senator Wilken pointed out that the legislation was                                                                             
supported by the Administration.  Representative G. Davis                                                                       
asked how the fiscal costs would be met.  Ms. Redman replied                                                                    
that it would be income earned from the Natural Resources                                                                       
Fund, which currently was being spent on other projects. The                                                                    
University has decided this is a higher priority.                                                                               
Representative J. Davies MOVED to report CSSB 167(FIN) out                                                                      
of Committee with individual recommendations and with the                                                                       
accompanying fiscal note.  There being NO OBJECTION, it was                                                                     
so ordered.                                                                                                                     
CS SB 167(FIN) was reported out of Committee with a "do                                                                         
pass" recommendation and with a fiscal note by the                                                                              
University of Alaska dated 5/7/99.                                                                                              

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