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Alaska offers more than a dozen colleges and universities, from major public institutions like the University of Alaska Anchorage to technical training programs like Alaska’s Institute of Technology. The Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education (ACPE) oversees the state’s higher education system, providing education planning tools and resources, financial aid for college and career training, educational consumer protection, programs that create early awareness on the importance of higher education, and advocating for postsecondary participation in Alaska. The latter is an especially important goal, as the state experiences major “brain drain” ó wherein its high school graduates leave the state to attend college elsewhere and do not return, leaving the state without skilled labor and limiting opportunities for economic growth. According to a study of Census data by MainStreet, Alaska had the biggest overall educational decline when comparing the percentage of the population with high school diplomas or more, bachelor’s degrees or more, and advanced degrees or more between 2008 and 2009. The state did not gain in any of those categories and overall had a decrease of -1.8%.
The ACPE has attempted to combat this brain drain by launching scholarship programs and increasing Alaskans’ access to low-cost financial aid and grant programs. Distance education could also help by increasing Alaskan residents’ access to higher education. Many of the state’s premier institutions of higher education offer a variety of online college degree programs at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s levels, with both technical and academic training available. Here’s a look at some of the state’s online colleges and universities and what they offer:
The University of Alaska Anchorage, or UAA, is the largest of the three main universities in the University of Alaska System (the others being in Fairbanks and Juneau). It’s also the state’s largest post-secondary institution, with more than 18,000 students. It awards associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees, as well as vocational and professional certificates, in more than 150 major areas, including arts, sciences, business, education, human services and health sciences. Through UA Online, all students in the University of Alaska System, including UAA, can take undergraduate and graduate degrees, certificates, occupational endorsements, and courses entirely online or in blended formats. More than 90 degree and certificate programs are available through distance learning in a variety of subjects, from arctic engineering to speech pathology.
Alaska Pacific University is a small liberal arts college in Anchorage. It is one of the most recent United Methodist educational institutions founded in America, opening in 1960 (one year after Alaska became a state) as Alaska Methodist University. In 1978, the school restructured as a nondenominational university and renamed itself Alaska Pacific University, though it still retains a commitment to the spiritual and moral values of its Judeo-Christian heritage. It is one of five universities and colleges that belong to the Eco League, noted for their strong programs in psychology and environmental studies. The school is noted overall by U.S. News & World Report, which ranked APU among the best universities in the West. It offers two-year, four-year, master’s and doctorate level programs. Select undergraduate online college courses are also available to all undergraduate students.
Charter College is a private, independent institution of education founded in Anchorage in 1985. Since then, it has expanded in Alaska with a campus in Wasilla, as well as to other states, with several locations in California and Washington. It offers a broad range of career training programs in such areas as business, criminal justice, health care, information technology, and construction management at the certificate, associate degree, and bachelor’s degree levels. The school also has a strong online presence, offering associate and bachelor’s degrees in health care, business, criminal justice, and law through its Anchorage campus.