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PUBLISHED: 4:08 PM on Wednesday, June 25, 2008
UA's economic footprint felt statewide
The University of Alaska's economic impact in the state reaches nearly $1 billion annually, including direct and indirect payroll, student and visitor spending, and millions in goods and services paid to 1,200 Alaska businesses in over 70 Alaska communities, according to a new report by the McDowell Group Inc. consulting firm.

"The state's investment in the university is well worth it, returning over $3 in total economic activity for every $1 from the state treasury," McDowell Group principal Eric McDowell told the UA Board of Regents, meeting at the University of Alaska Anchorage campus Thursday.

The quantifiable return is in addition to qualitative issues such as improved quality of life, increased involvement in community and satisfying careers, he said.

The report notes that UA graduates tend to remain in Alaska. In 2006 alone, they earned an estimated $2 billion in the state, McDowell said. Ninety-five percent of UA Scholars graduates, recipients of the university's $11,000 scholarship to the top 10 percent of every graduating high school class in Alaska, stay and work in Alaska after graduating college.

Another top item addressed included formal project approval for the new $46 million, 78,000-square-foot Health Sciences Building on the UAA campus.

The legislature provided funding for the building, which will provide much-needed classroom space and state-of-the-art simulated labs for health programs such as nursing and WWAMI, a medical school partnership with the University of Washington.

Construction on the building is expected to get under way by next summer and be ready for students by fall 2011. While regents saw an artist's concept of the building, just off Providence Drive across from the main campus, final design will occur in the months ahead.

"This will be a very significant piece of setting the future for the entire health program at UAA," noted UAA Chancellor Fran Ulmer.

Regent Tim Brady of Anchorage agreed.

"I'm really excited about this facility-it's going to be a great addition to campus," he said.

The board also heard from the state of Alaska's new education commissioner Larry LeDoux. LeDoux said he endorses recent recommendations of the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, which supports creation of a governor's sub-cabinet on K-16 education, among other measures.

The recommendations are aimed at reversing Alaska's dismal statistics on high school and college graduation, college and work preparation and rates of training and education beyond high school.

"We need to develop strategies to create a statewide, college-going culture. It starts young-you can't wait for last-minute visits when you're a high school senior," LeDoux said.

The University of Alaska also supports the recommendations of the ACPE. The UA system's outreach efforts start in the second grade and continue throughout a K-12 student's life.

Improving statistics for student success has been a top priority of UA's administration, faculty and staff. LeDoux and members of the board agreed to work together in tackling the problem.

In other business, the regents:

• Approved a budget distribution plan for the system for the fiscal year starting July 1

• Approved a new Bachelor of Arts in fisheries at UAF

• Approved a new master's degree in natural resources management and geography at UAF

• Lauded four recipients of the annual "Make Students Count" award, singled out for exceptional service to students. They are Barbara Hegel, UAS registrar; Shelly Blatchford, admissions and records coordinator for Kenai Peninsula College in Soldotna; J.J. Boggs, director of student leadership at UAF; and Ramona McAfee, statewide director of distance education and military services

• and heard a report on intercollegiate athletics programs at UAA and UAF.

To link to an overview of the McDowell Group report about UA's economic impacts, go to www.alaska.edu/swbudget/UAImpacts2007Final.pdf.


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