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Alaska university system gets high marks in survey
Anchorage Daily News


January 21, 2006
Saturday AM

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Alaskans are feeling better about the University of Alaska system, but people in Southcentral are less likely to feel positively than those in other regions, reports a new survey released by University President Mark Hamilton.

"The Southcentral region, particularly Anchorage and Mat-Su, are booming in terms of population and growth, with numerous other competing sources of cultural, civic, educational and recreational interests," said Megan Olson, assistant vice chancellor of university relations at the University of Alaska Anchorage, in a statement.




"The university is the town center in many rural areas, and there is quite simply less competing for attention," she said.

Overall, more respondents gave the university favorable responses than when the survey was last done in 1999. The most favorable ratings came from the Interior.

"The major theme is that people's opinions have improved," said Heather Haugland, an analyst with McDowell Group, based in Juneau, Alaska, which did the survey in 2005.

"Anchorage tended to have a less positive view, and that's also true in Southcentral. . . . although they give less positive ratings, it's still positive."

Four out of five Alaskans believe the University of Alaska is very important to the state, and nine out of 10 parents of school-age children said they would encourage their children to attend UA. Since 1999, the number who said they would strongly encourage their children to attend increased from 22 percent to 38 percent. The number who said the university was very important grew 12 percentage points.

Hamilton said that, as the image of the university has grown stronger, so have private donations. More faculty members are producing peer-reviewed research as well, a mark of prestige for the university.

Enrollment in the university system responds to the economy. When times are tight, more people choose to enroll in-state, Hamilton said.

About 39 percent of Alaskans surveyed said they believe the quality of UA schools is about the same as schools in other states. Eighteen percent said it is worse. Residents of Southcentral and Southeast were more likely to say it was worse or much worse.

Half of all Alaska residents believe funding for the university system should increase, according to the survey, while 4 percent said it should decrease. The Interior most supported increased funding, at 57 percent. Southcentral was least, with 49 percent of respondents indicating they wanted increased funding.

Hamilton explained that the ratings were tied to the number of people who had contact with the university.

"Obviously, you can expect more (positive responses) in an area where the university is more of a presence," he said.

Residents in small communities and those who took classes in the UA system were generally more positive, he said. The Southcentral sample had the fewest respondents who had taken a class at UAA.

The survey was done over the telephone with a random sample of residents across the state.


Distributed by Scripps-McClatchy Western Service,

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