Juneau seeks community help with $1 million endowment for Alaska College of Education

Students gather outside at the UAS Auke Lake Campus on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012. (Photo by Heather Bryant/KTOO)

The City and Borough of Juneau is looking to the community for help meeting the remainder of its $1 million commitment to the University of Alaska’s new education college.

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The city pledged to create an endowment when the University of Alaska Board of Regents was considering where to put the new school.

So far, it has contributed $500,000 toward its $1 million pledge. Stock market gains and individual donations mean it’s now worth a little over $600,000. The budget that takes effect July 1 includes another $250,000.

The city hopes to make up the remainder of its pledge — about $150,000 — with community donations.

Assembly member Jesse Kiehl said the goal is to have 150 community donors make personal or business contributions.

“It’s important that the city started that off and started very strongly, and so this is an opportunity to broaden that throughout the community and get lots of people involved,” Kiehl said.

There have already been several $10,000 donations.

The Alaska College of Education, based at the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau, is now the administrative center for teacher education in Alaska.

Although degree programs will continue at the Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses, the university hopes the new structure will help it reach its goal to produce 90 percent of Alaska’s teachers by 2025.

The regents approved $1.15 million for the new college at its May 31 meeting.

UAS Chancellor Rick Caulfield said that money will support coordination among UA’s teacher education programs, with UAS in the lead.

“It’s a significant investment by the regents of new funds into UAS and teacher education,” Caulfield said. “That’ll include additional money for marketing and recruitment of students into our undergraduate and graduate programs, our master of arts in teaching program, for example.”

The decision to base the college in Juneau was controversial.

Its creation came out of Strategic Pathways, an initiative aimed at consolidating programs and saving money in the midst of state budgets cuts.

Fairbanks was the original recommendation, but the regents ultimately voted in December 2016 to base the school at UAS.

That resulted in votes of no-confidence in UA President Jim Johnsen’s leadership last year by the faculty senates at UAF and UAA. They said faculty was not consulted prior to the decision.

Kiehl was one of the main cheerleaders in the push to choose UAS.

“It was important that the University of Alaska Southeast take the lead on teacher education because it really was the most successful program, it was the most innovative, it was the most efficient,” Kiehl said.

Kiehl pointed out that the Fairbanks and Anchorage campuses have more master’s degree programs than UAS. He said it’s important for each of UA’s three main universities to have areas of expertise.

“Without that, the potential threats in the budget cutting times to UAS as a standalone university were tremendous,” Kiehl said.

Besides its educational importance, the campus is also one of Juneau’s biggest local employers and an economic driver in the region.

Kiehl said there’s no firm deadline for meeting the fundraising goal, but the sooner the fund is established, the better. He and the other members of the Assembly have all agreed to contribute. The same goes for board members of the Alaska Committee, a capital city booster organization.

The Juneau Community Foundation is handling donations. The city will send out letters to potential donors in the coming weeks.

Caulfield said the university looks forward to putting the CBJ Teacher Excellence Fund to work building future generations of Alaskan educators.

“I envision that those funds will be used for scholarships and to support programs, not only here in Southeast Alaska, but all over the state,” Caulfield said.

Summer programs at the Alaska College of Education are already underway.

Steve Atwater, the new Executive Dean of the college, starts July 1.

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