Professor criticizes lack of economics education

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There is no easy solution to the budget crisis, but cutting an economics program is not the most sustainable solution, according to professor Sherri Wall. On March 18, community members gathered at Denny’s to listen to Wall’s presentation on the peril of UAF’s economic education for Friday’s GOP Luncheon.

“Just a few years ago, UAF received some notoriety from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni,” Wall said. “We were the only university in the nation at that time that required economics.”

In the past, UAF was the only university nationwide to require political economics as a core class for students. However, as of this year, this requirement is no longer implemented at the university.

Now, all subdivisions of the economics program, including minors, majors and organizations such as Students Who Enjoy Economic Thinking, are at risk for being cut for financial reasons.

“Seems like, since we’re having a budgetary crisis,” Wall said, referencing a Sourdough Jack comic, “we need more economists rather than fewer.”

Enrollment in the economics major started its suspension in April. Wall criticized this decision, saying the board should consider the cost/benefit analysis of cutting the economics program before making a final decision around June.

The current decision-making process overlooks the benefits of keeping the program in the university, Wall said. The economics program is ranked 80 out of the 280 programs here at UAF. Despite being on the bottom of the School of Management curriculum, the program generates a copious amount of student credit hours for those in and out of the School of Management.

Cutting the economics program would cost more in lost opportunities than it would save in cash, according to Wall.

“The suspension of the program was cited for financial reasons… However, after just doing a brief cost-benefit analysis, the savings of eliminating the economics program would be very negligible,” Wall said. “It ignores things like return on investment, and where students go and how they are giving back and contributing to society. An economics degree is a very, very valuable degree.”

Isaac Gage was one of the students who attended the luncheon. He is currently an accounting student here at UAF, and is also a member of Students Who Enjoy Economic Thinking. Gage is transferring schools due to the suspension of UAF’s economics program.

“Pretty much anything, any professional field you go into, if you want to become a doctor, if you want to become an engineer—you have got to have economics,” Gage said.

Economics and education go hand in hand, as both areas are used to make sound decisions that produce a desired outcome. Students who involve themselves in economic education yield higher paying jobs, tend do significantly better on the Law School Admission Test and make large contributions to the community and society, according to Wall.

“Economic literacy is vital to Alaska’s interior,” Wall said.

Wall’s presentation suggested that education in economics will set a foundation for critical thinking to solve real-world problems that need addressing for the future, such as upcoming savings, juggling inflation and current debt for which the U.S. owes $100 trillion including unfunded liabilities.

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