Letters to the Editor

Letter: Look at it ‘this way’

Sadly, Mr. Red Bradley’s letter (ADN, July 14) missed the mark in describing the value and performance of the University of Alaska, or UA. His research focused alone on the standard Integrated Postsecondary Education System — commonly known as IPEDS — as a single measure of the system’s productivity. In higher education since 1989, I know well the tendency of others to focus on efficiency measures, which are important, but significantly different, from effectiveness.

President Pat Pitney’s piece painted a more comprehensive picture of the university’s value and contribution to the state, i.e., solid general education (science, humanities, the arts), the Institute for Social and Economic Research, Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program, career and technical programs, University of Alaska Fairbanks arctic research and more.

An effectiveness measure, rarely captured because it is difficult and costly — is the measure of a student’s “intent,” i.e., their purpose in seeking instruction. Throughout UA, students seek other than a baccalaureate or graduate degree. Remember two things. First, locally, the 1987 University of Alaska Anchorage merger with the Anchorage Community College integrated the often diverse missions of a community college and a comprehensive university. That’s a lengthy and fascinating story, well beyond the scope of this letter.

Second, since then, many local students now enroll at UAA, UAF and UAS to seek new knowledge or skills through a course, several courses, a certificate or even an associates’ degree. By virtue of their life situation — children, aging parents, work demands, etc. — many are not able to study full time, taking longer to “complete” their objectives, than traditional full-time students. By IPEDS definition, those would be non-completers, or some today would say “unsuccessful.” Mr. Bradley also referred to students “unprepared” for college-level study. Local access to adult basic education, or ABE, has dwindled since the 1980s. Providing developmental English and math, often through ABE, was traditionally part of a community college curriculum. That it is now part of university offerings reflects the diversity of UAA’s mission post-merger.

At a time when Alaska, and Anchorage specifically, are losing the talent needed to support our struggling economy, and to address our most pressing societal and natural challenges, I suggest we recognize the value of all of UA’s student accomplishments, no matter their original “intent.”

— Jan L. Gehler, Ed.D.

UAA Community and Technical College, dean, retired


Scottsdale Community College, president, retired


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