There is a bill in the legislature, SB208, that would discontinue the Alaska Performance Scholarship program effective as of next year’s high school graduating class. The program would still be available for those already benefiting from the program and this year’s high school graduates. The voices of those who oppose this bill have been loud and strong, including current University of Alaska students who will not be affected. And the Great Alaska Schools group, whose spokespersons seem to be upper middle class, are very vocal in their opposition. Why would this be?
The program is merit based and is usually based upon a student’s high school GPA. The scholarship awards $2,378 to a student with a minimum GPA of 2.5 (that’s a C+) and awards $4,755 to a student with a GPA of 3.5 (B+). What is interesting in the data is that 20% of the students awarded an APS are required to take remedial classes because their high school education was deficient. And you thought this was merit based!
Here’s the question that needs to be asked of these students and GAS: “Why not use your PFD that has accumulated over the past 18 years? Why do you want to use my and everyone else’s PFDs to fund your college?” Matter of fact, if you had saved your PFDs over that 18 year period, you would have more than $26,000 to fund your college education. You could even have chosen to put part of your PFD into the Alaska 529 college investment program and maybe even have close to $30,000 to spend. Why use others’ PFDs?
If a student attends the University of Alaska Anchorage, the tuition and fees would cost $4,608 tuition and $886 in fees for a total of $5,494 per year. Hopefully, a student could get a part time job or even use their PFDs to fund the difference between the APS and this cost. But then again, maybe that student spent those PFDs on Hawaii trips, Disneyland, beer, snowmachines, a car, video games, fast food, and all other types of “educational investments”.
But every once in awhile a bright light shines in our young citizens. And here is testimony to the Senate on SB208 from XXXXXXX, a student at UAA:
“Good evening Senators,
I know in the coming weeks you will be receiving a lot of testimony on sb208, much (if not most) of it laced with sharp criticism. I wanted to take a moment and pass on some encouragement, hopefully ahead of the flood.
I am a student at UAA, the first in my family to go to college. I am also a recipient of the Alaska Performance Scholarship. I chair both College Republicans and Young Americans for Liberty at UAA. Each semester, I have received a credit to my UAA account balance of $2,378.00, as I am in the level one bracket for APS and take 15 credit hours each semester. I also work full time in order to support myself. I live completely independent from my parents, and have been since two weeks after my 18th birthday (when I moved out to attend my first semester at UAA).
I know you will receive many emails and phone calls asking you to please spare the APS. Everyone in the state has that one service they wish to see perpetuated by the state. I am not one of those students. The APS comes from a time of record high oil prices, and with that, record high revenue. Obviously that is not the case today. And even though I directly benefit from my APS, I recognize that the program needs to go.
My first year of college, I supported myself making $10/hr at the McDonalds on Tudor road in Anchorage, right next to campus. I was a department manager, and frankly, I made a crappy wage. I did not apply for state assistance, though I surely would have qualified. Instead, I tightened my belt, and lived within my means (and then some, as my scholarship didn’t cover everything, I still had to save to pay the remainder). I won’t lie, it completely sucked. I left the relative comfort of home, giving up luxuries like Internet, tv, a house heated above 60 degrees (paying for utilities is expensive), and many others. I worked every day of the week, even if just for two hours, so that I could take advantage of the $8 of free food my employer provided me. I lived in rough housing with rough roommates in order to save money. I didn’t eat out or have fun. I worked, I went to class, I studied, and then I worked some more. I couponed and found every possible way to save money. After all, what else should you do when you are living paycheck to paycheck or headed into the red?
The state’s situation is not dissimilar to my own. Today I have a better job, but I still work full time. I pay my bills and save the rest so that I can pay for school.
The loss of the Alaska performance scholarship will undoubtedly make my life harder, but just like I had to sacrifice to scrape by and maintain my independence, so too should the state. We need to cut, and cut deep. We must tighten our belts and live within our means. That means cuts to education, to healthcare, to state services. Our budget is bloated and we must become fiscally solvent.
And besides, I would much rather lose my APS, or my dividend for that matter, than be subject to a state sales or income tax. I budget to my last dime so that I can survive the high cost of living here and put money away for school and emergencies. I see no reason why the state shouldn’t do the same.
I appreciate the position you are left in, as it is not easy to make cuts, but in order for me and the rest of millennials to even have a future in this state, we need to clean up our act.
I fully support sb208. It is a step in the right direction.
(P.S. I apologize for the length! I felt it prudent to be very vocal in my support and I know you will be facing criticism for this bill)”
Thank you XXXXXXX for being so thoughtful and a hard working student. You will do very well in life.
What do you think, folks? Should a prospective college student use your PFD or their PFD? It’s all about Other People’s Money.
Let the Senator know your thoughts on SB208.
Note: We initially provided the student’s name but since have removed it because the student has been attacked on his/her facebook page.