Legislature(1999 - 2000)
05/16/1999 10:20 AM House FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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 date. 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.