Online and Private Colleges in Alaska
Famously picturesque, with its breathtaking scenery and natural landscape, Alaska — the largest state in the U.S. — has relatively few college options for its student population to choose from. This is reflective of its comparatively small population relative to its geographical mass. In 2013, Alaska’s total population was just over 700,000, translating roughly to one person per square mile compared to the national average of 87 people per square mile. To overcome the challenges that may come with a disparate student population, many Alaska colleges offer attractive distance learning and flexible scheduling programs to accommodate students’ needs and attract potential attendees from all areas of the state and beyond.
Alaska’s mix of two and four-year degree-granting institutions may supply more than enough college destinations to meet student’s higher education needs. Some popular college majors include those in environmental sciences, ecology, biology, energy, engineering, tourism and leisure, food and culinary arts, health care, and financial services, preparing graduates with their transition to professional life.
Students seeking associates degrees or certificates may find Alaska’s two-year colleges to be the right choice for them as they decide whether to enter the workforce after graduation or transfer their earned credits and continue with their studies at a baccalaureate institution. Many of these colleges offer degree programs and learning methods to cater to the diverse student-life needs of its enrollees and counter-balance some of the challenges of attending schools that may be primarily located in far off corners of the state. For example, in 2006, Ilisagvik College became the first federally recognized tribal college in the state, providing a range of Alaska Native cultural studies programs to both native and non-native students. Prince William Sound Community College (PWSCC) boasts as many as eight extension centers off its main campus in Valdez, Alaska, to cater to students across the state that may have trouble matriculating at their main campus. Prince William Sound Community College (a public institution) also has no out-of-state tuition. As a result, students from New York and Alaska are quoted the same tuition fees, giving prospective out-of-state students one more reason to consider attending PWSCC. Below are a few of Alaska’s community and associate degree-granting institutions:
Community and Associates Degree Colleges in Alaska
|School||Number of Students|
|Alaska Career College Career Academy||381|
|Alaska Christian College||33|
|Prince William Sound Community College (Part of University of Alaska System)||748|
|Kodiak College (Part of University of Alaska Anchorage)||914|
|Kenai Peninsula College (Part of University of Alaska Anchorage)||2,600|
The majority of Alaska’s baccalaureate and post-graduate university students attend publicly funded institutions, namely through its massive University of Alaska System. Just over 35,000 full and part-time college students attend a branch of this public university network. Consisting of its three major campuses and its various extensions, Alaska’s largest four-year college system includes the University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Alaska Fairbanks, and University of Alaska Southeast campuses.
Each of the three main campuses offer in-state tuition fees of roughly $5,000 a year. Offering academic programs ranging from two-year associates to master’s and post-doctorate degrees, the University of Alaska System educates the bulk of students pursuing undergraduate and graduate studies in the state.
|School||Number of Students|
|University of Alaska Anchorage||18,128|
|University of Alaska Fairbanks||9,712|
|University of Alaska Southeast||3,344|
Alaska’s private universities offering four-year degrees are admittedly few. While the majority of Alaska’s undergraduate and graduate students attend colleges in its extended public university system, some Alaskan private four-year colleges offer its enrollees very targeted learning experiences that may be exactly what they’re looking for. Alaska Bible College, for example, is a very small and selective school with a “biblical,” theological academic focus, preparing its graduates for a professional life in ministry. Alaska Pacific University (APU) also has religious roots as it originally operated as Alaska Methodist University until it restructured and changed its name in 1978. Despite the revamp, APU continues to foster coursework that reflects a values system consistent with its Judeo-Christian heritage. APU also promotes Alaska Native educational topics and is a member of the Eco-League, a nationwide student exchange program of colleges offering strong programs in marine biology and environmental science.
Alaska’s Native population has fostered many college academic programs that educate students about its rich cultural history. Many colleges offer coursework focusing on historical and contemporary Alaska Native issues, open for study by Native and non-Native Alaskans. Some colleges, such as Ilisagvik College, are “tribal controlled colleges,” which is a higher learning institution formally controlled, sanctioned or chartered by the government body of an Indian tribe or tribes, according to the Tribally Controlled College or University Assistance Act of 1978. Schools offering such academic disciplines may be an attractive specialty for the right student.
Alaska also features a relatively high amount of Christian colleges, whether by religious affiliation or ministerial academic focus. Alaska Christian College, for instance, is an associates degree and certificate granting institution that prepares its graduates for life in the seminary. This is one of many colleges offering two and four year degrees in ministerial or theological studies.
Due to its expansive land area, many of Alaska’s colleges make accommodations for its students to learn online and through its extension campuses. From its University of Alaska System to smaller institutions offering associate degree and certificate programs, Alaska has fully embraced the need to offer flexible learning options for students with varying schedule and location issues. Below are a few Alaskan higher learning institutions that offer online programs and course attendance:
|School||Private vs. Public/Degree Type|
|Alaska Pacific University||Private/4-year|
|Alaska Vocational Technical Center||Private/2-year|
|Prince William Sound Community College||Public/2-year|
|University of Alaska Anchorage||Public/4-year|
|University of Alaska Fairbanks||Public/4-year|
|University of Alaska Southeast||Public/4-year|
University of Alaska, Anchorage
While the University of Alaska, Anchorage doesn’t offer any fully online degrees, it does have many online courses for students. Online classes start at the beginning of each semester and are offered in a variety of subjects, including principles of financial accounting, anthropology, biology, personal finance, child nutrition, and comparative education. Students can also choose blended classes if they want some class instruction online and some on-campus. Blended classes are available in art, science, education and communication areas. Homework requirements for each course vary—some instructors allow homework to be sent in via email, fax, postal mail or in person.
Whether fully online or blended, most classes require an in-person, proctored final exam. The university has 18 approved testing locations around Alaska, but students are allowed to request an alternate location and proctor, if needed.
Learn more about online class options and requirements at
UAA Distance Education Services.
Prince William Sound Community College (PWSCC)
Prince William Sound Community College offers dozens of online courses each semester. Online degree programs, however, are not available. Students have the option of taking online or blended classes in subjects such as cultural anthropology, solar system astronomy, human biology, physical geology and western civilization. Online courses are managed through a variety of tools—Blackboard, Course Compass, and Pearson’s Reading, Writing, and Econ Lab. Additionally, video conferencing, print materials and even phone calls with the instructor are used to help facilitate communication. Each class requires a proctored final exam at the end of the semester.
Learn more about the distance learning options at PWSCC, visit:http://www.pwscc.edu/academics/distance-learning/.
Nature, tourism, and energy are main driving forces in the career options for Alaska’s college graduates with a few growing industries making a place for themselves in the state. Top industries include health services, tourism, culinary arts and food production, environmental sciences, marine biology, financial services, energy and shipping/transportation. Job seekers may find the most opportunities available around major cities such as Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, and Sitka. Some of the state’s largest employers, according to its Department of Labor and Workforce Development, include Providence Health & Services, Trident Seafoods, BP Exploration Alaska, Alaska Airlines, Banner Health, FedEx, UPS, ConocoPhillips Alaska, Alaska USA Federal Credit Union, Alaska Hotel Properties, and Wells Fargo.