According to data from the Department of Education, the number of out of state freshmen that attend public universities has doubled since 1986. However, the University of Alaska Anchorage has not felt these effects. Ninety-one percent of students that attend UAA are residents of Alaska.
This percentage is nearly identical to Alaska’s overall 92 percent of residents attending its universities. The only state topping that percentage is Texas at 93 percent, according to 2014 College Board statistics. Compared to other colleges, the number of Alaskan residents attending UAA is higher than that of most universities in other states.
A big incentive for Alaskan students to stay in state to further their education is the Alaska Performance Scholarship. By taking a more rigorous course load in high school, scoring well on placement tests and maintaining good grades, students can earn one of three levels of scholarship to receive a post-secondary education in Alaska.
“Even before the program was put in place, I had already seen a shift,” Philip Jordan, term professor in the psychology department and UAA alumnus, said. “[When teaching at Service High School,] I taught only AP students, who are of high caliber, and they were not only choosing to come here but proud they were.”
Jordan and many UAA students support the APS and view it as highly beneficial to students and the university alike.
“I think the talk of taking away the scholar program would be an incredible mistake, and injurious to the university system. It brings the top students here, and they see a benefit in attending UAA,” Jordan said. “It was one of the best things instituted.”
Although the APS is a big motivator for Alaskan students to remain in-state, other aspects play major roles as well. Additional incentives for residents attending UAA are the comfort of being close to home, the environment and the personal interactions with professors.
“Alaska is a very isolated place, and if you grow up here, you grow up in small, isolated towns. It’s more comforting to stick around,” Nancy Long, a teaching assistant in the English department who grew up in Alaska, said. “It’s less of a leap.”
A large number of students attend UAA to stay near the Alaska wilderness that they grew up around.
“I love the scenery and how you can go for a five-minute walk in the woods, finding yourself in a brand new area,” Morgan Berns, social work major, said.
Berns has lived in Alaska for almost 12 years and plans to graduate from UAA, possibly continuing for her master’s degree.
Jusso Pöntinen, fourth-year legal studies exchange student from Finland and part of the 9 percent of non-resident students attending UAA, also thoroughly enjoys the nature and weather in Anchorage.
“I had plenty of choices of where to go [on the exchange], but UAA seemed the most interesting in my opinion,” Pöntinen said. “I like it here because I get a lot of exposure to nature… and the weather is similar to Finland. I love the mountains here, we don’t have any like them in Finland.”
Like many other students and staff of UAA, Long speaks highly of Alaska’s natural beauty.
“Alaska is a really interesting place, I think it’s really special. I love how easy it is to get to what is considered backcountry. You can drive for 30 minutes and feel like you’re not even in the city,” Long said. “That’s a really cool thing about Anchorage. You have all the conveniences of a city, but you don’t have to drive very long to be in the middle of nowhere.”
Once enrolled in UAA and exposed to the atmosphere, students remain at the university for the relationships that are formed with professors.
“Students can receive as good as an educational experience at UAA as elsewhere, and they’re beginning to realize that,” Jordan said. “Not only is it economical [to stay in-state], but the quality of education is comparable. Top students from high schools are coming here that could’ve gone anywhere, including Ivy League schools, for the personal interactions with professors.”
Kanami Iwama, freshman special education major, enjoys many of the same aspects of Alaska and the university as residents do. As an exchange student from the Hokkaido University of Education in Japan, a partner college with UAA, one of her favorite experiences during her exchange so far has been the interactions with her teachers and other students.
“The class size [between Hokkaido and UAA] is different. There are about 300 people in one class there, but here each class has about 20 people, I was so surprised,” Iwama said.
The student-faculty ratio at UAA is 12-to-1, as of 2017 statistics, which often helps foster interpersonal relationships between students and professors.
“I was nervous for my classes because I couldn’t speak English well, but students and teachers have helped me a lot,” Iwama said. “I also go to the writing center a lot. It is so helpful.”
UAA partners with institutions in Japan, as well as in Scotland, Australia, England and Germany for their exchange programs.
From the views and nature that are just minutes from campus, to professors that take personal interests in students, to the quality of education, UAA offers an educational experience for Alaskan students and non-residents alike that is comparable to universities in the Lower 48.