20 years of UA Scholars

For 20 years, the UA Scholars program has awarded Alaska’s top-performing high school students a chance to attend the University of Alaska.

This year’s graduates are the 21st class to be awarded with the opportunity to participate in the UA Scholars program. Students that accept the award will be joining the 9,000 previous students that have accepted the award and  attended University of Alaska campuses over the past 20 years.

Photo credit: Jian Bautista

The program awards high school students a $12,000 scholarship based upon their academic GPA at the end of their junior year. If the student falls within the top 10% of their class, they are offered the opportunity to accept.

On average, the scholarship stretches out over a four year period. Students are required to meet certain conditions to maintain the scholarship, such as a 2.5 collegiate GPA. On a four year graduation plan, the student would receive about $1,500 a semester for school expenses.

In 1999, the UA Scholars program began as a way for the University of Alaska to motivate students toward academic excellence and to encourage top-performing students to attend the University of Alaska.

Prior to the program, students were not necessarily choosing UA campuses for their higher education.

“In 1998, before the program existed, we estimate that UA captured approximately 18% of the top 10% of Alaska’s high school graduates,” Caitlin Lipka, UA Scholars program specialist, said in an email.

- Advertisement -

Data from the past 20 years has shown this number has risen to a significantly higher percentage.

“Historically, UA Scholars have had a strong application to enrollment yield for the first fall semester after high school graduation,” Lipka said. “With the exception of 2018, UA Scholars have enrolled at a predictable 42% average.”

The UA Scholars website explains the benefits of keeping top students in-state, stating that “UA Scholars enrich the academic environment at UA as they develop in their roles as future leaders of Alaska. They represent all the corners of the state and serve as ambassadors between their community and the university.”

In an email, UA President Jim Johnsen said that the program has helped to transform higher education in Alaska through promoting and rewarding academic achievement.

“When the UA Scholar Program was created 20 years ago, it was a turning point for our state and Alaskans. It’s more than a generous scholarship program, the UA Scholars program is an investment in Alaska, our economy and our future. The program will continue to inspire high school students to achieve academic excellence and attend college in Alaska,” Johnsen said.

The program serves communities throughout Alaska, and provides opportunity to students in the more remote locations of the state.

“The program has been particularly effective at attracting students from rural communities. UA Scholars are ambassadors between their communities and the university. The opportunity to attend college prepares students to become leaders in their home communities,” Johnsen said.

UA Scholars are also more likely to graduate in less time, according to President Johnsen.

“UA Scholars have earned more than 5,300 degrees and certificates from the University of Alaska. Four UA Scholars have earned a doctorate degree,” Johnsen said.

Scholars that complete their degrees at the University of Alaska tend to stay in-state for their careers as well, which can be an important piece of Alaska’s future.

“The UA Scholars Program is creating a workforce that is ready for today’s fast-paced, highly competitive job marketplace,” Johnsen said.

The scholarship is funded by UA’s Land Grant Trust Fund. This fund is based upon the development of trust lands held by the University of Alaska through the sale, lease and development of these lands.

“This provides reliable funding for this critical scholarship program well into the future,” Johnsen said.

With many more years to come, the UA Scholars program is working to turn the Last Frontier into the first choice for students.