Alaska Senate approves bill to cut Alaska Performance Scholarship

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The Alaska Senate recently approved Senate Bill 103, the initiative to establish innovative grants for public education and nearly eliminate the Alaska Performance Scholarship. The bill easily passed the Senate in a 12-7 vote.

SB 103 would drastically reduce the highly successful APS by phasing out tier two and three scholarships by Feb. 1, 2021.

If the bill passes, only tier one of the APS would remain, and be available to Alaskan high school graduates with a 3.5 grade point average or better and at least a 25 on the ACT or a 1210 on the SAT.

The bill also proposes to eliminate the need-based Alaska Education Grant program, which helps many students afford education at the University of Alaska.

UA President Jim Johnsen expects the House to approve the bill and continue further through the legislative process.

“We are very concerned about any change that would impact these highly successful programs. We believe that ending the programs would be detrimental to growing our enrollment, encouraging young Alaskans to remain in Alaska for college and then build a career and life here,” Johnsen said.

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The APS was created in 2011 to inspire Alaskan high school students to pursue higher education in state. In the 2015-16 academic year, 4,648 students at the University of Alaska benefited from the APS or AEG program.

If the House approves SB 103, 50 percent of high school graduates will no longer be eligible for the APS. That is roughly 1,200 students that will no longer earn the scholarship. Without the APS, many students will no longer have access to affordable higher education.

“As part of its mission to promote student access to and success in education beyond high school, the Commission is concerned that one of the key incentives for Alaska’s students to excel in high school and be prepared for postsecondary and workforce success may be eliminated,” Stephanie Butler, executive director of the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, said in a press release.

The Commission adopted a resolution in support of the Alaska Performance Scholarship and Alaska Education Grants.

“The investment in the next generation of Alaskans is an important one, not just for students, but for Alaska’s economy as a whole when we can provide our high school graduates with the incentive to remain in Alaska for college and career training and to contribute to a strong Alaska economy, fueled by an Alaskan workforce,” ACPE chair Joey Crum said.

According to ACPE, APS users have a 25 percent higher rate of Alaska residency after graduation, while 83 percent of users say they were influenced by the APS to attend school in Alaska. Butler also noted that almost twice as many APS students at UA are prepared for college work and need no remediation, compared to those that did not receive the APS.

The UA Board of Regents and the Coalition of Student Leaders each passed resolutions in support of the Alaska Higher Education Investment Fund, APS and the AEG. The fate of the APS and AEG is currently awaiting the House leaders.