Uncertainty due to budget cuts will impact the University of Alaska Anchorage and its students throughout the upcoming fall semester and beyond, especially those who receive financial aid.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy originally proposed a cut of $136 million in one year for the Alaska University systems. There were numerous protests and petitions to override Dunleavy’s proposed veto.
As of Aug. 13, Dunleavy signed a budget agreement that would reduce the $136 million to $70 million. Although it is an improvement from the initial proposed budget, students may still be left with financial aid cuts and uncertainty.
Grants and scholarships were and still are in question. The Alaska Education Grant, or AEG, that provides funds for post-secondary students in need, was originally dissolved when Dunleavy first made the cuts of $136 million, starting in 2021. The same fate was held for the Alaska Performance Grant, or APS, which provided Alaska high school graduates financial aid for college. As of now, the AEG and APS are active and there are no new plans for extinguishing these grants.
Some grants cannot be affected by Alaska budget cuts, though, such as the Federal Pell Grant. This is a subsidy of the federal government for students who meet financial need criteria and who have not yet earned their first bachelor’s degree. The Pell Grant can be applied for on the Federal Student Aid site or FAFSA.
Scholarships and grants from outside of the university can also be an option for students, and there are many to choose from. Scholarships, Fastweb and Unigo are just three of the most popular websites where students can search for scholarships which they are eligible for. The applications can require essays and separate applications. Letters of recommendation may also be needed.
UAA also has a site dedicated to scholarship resources. They are accepting applications for the 2019/2020 school year from Oct. 1-Feb. 15. The site features options like college aligned scholarships, workshops, searching for specific scholarships by keyword and more.
Aside from scholarships and grants, another option students have to help pay for school is employer reimbursement programs. These programs allow students to pay for school while they work. Companies such as Starbucks, IBM, Chipotle and the Anchorage Police Department all offer financial assistance to further employee education. Starbucks, for example, pays half of the student’s tuition through their freshman and sophomore years, then full tuition reimbursement for their junior and senior years. Most of these companies don’t require the employee to remain with the company after graduation.
There are also unconventional ways of paying for college. Robert Allen, an art major, graduated from the University of Washington in 2000, but spent his summers working in Alaska to pay for college.
“I worked every summer at different lodges from Denali to Juneau. I worked as a server and made a lot of money. There was usually employee housing and food for cheap or free, so I just saved all of my money. I would walk away every summer with an average of $9,000 that I then used to help fund college,” Allen said.
Seasonal jobs like Allen’s are plentiful in Alaska, especially in the summer. Jobs can be found on websites like Coolworks, Seasonaljobs and Alaskatourjobs. These positions are also available in winter. For the colder months, seasonal work is typically at ski resorts and locations where winter is the busy season, such as Florida.
Contract work is also available to students and easily accessible online. Positions such as tutoring online, dog walking, babysitting, driving for Uber or opening an online business, such as selling crafts on Etsy, are all work options that have schedule flexibility.
Living off-campus may also be less expensive than paying for dormitories. UAA requires a meal plan which can be expensive and the rent for dorms itself can also be less affordable. Sharing an apartment with other students and cooking meals at home might save a lot of money in the long run.
Joining the military is another way to pay for school. They will provide the GI Bill, which will pay tuition to public universities and up to $17,500 at private institutions.
Finally, there is the option to take out student loans. Federal student loans have a fixed interest rate and sometimes do not need to start being paid until after the student graduates or is no longer attending school full time.
There are many different ways to fund a college degree, many of which are considered non-traditional. Finding resources may not be the difficult part; deciding which one to choose may be.