Undaunted by biting cold and a periodic wind gusts Friday, several dozen University of Alaska Southeast students stood outside Juneau’s Capitol calling for an end to budget cuts.

They joined faculty, a handful of lawmakers and other supporters while waving signs and shouting chants like, “A great state needs a great university.”

The university system’s budget has been cut by $61 million since 2014. Its board of regents backed a $341 million budget request. That’s $24 million above what Gov. Bill Walker is proposing.

Earlier this week, University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen spent time in Juneau defending the budget request.

On Friday, the students spoke out.

“Funding the University of Alaska is funding future Alaskans, and by cutting our funding, they are actively taking away opportunities from students,” said Breanna Walker, the student government president at the UAS campus in Juneau.

“Here at UAS, for example, our bachelor of arts program was canceled-- cut from funding,” Walker said. “So, that means students that perhaps that want to get that degree now have to go somewhere else.”

Walker’s colleagues held signs. Some read:

  • This groundhog predicts more university funding
  • Education is our passport to the future
  • Think education.
  • I’m already broke as i$.

Johnsen will return to Juneau in coming weeks. He met with reporters before spending part of the week with the legislature.

He emphasized that putting money into higher education is a prudent investment into the state’s economy.

“Everybody, I think, knows without investment there can’t be growth,” he told reporters Monday morning. “When budgets are cut, when disinvestment occurs, services and programs inevitably get reduced.”

Budgets are still a long way from being final. The House will likely pass its budget in early March then the Senate will draft its own version before the two sides work out their differences.

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