While relatively isolated from the rest of the United States, due to Alaska’s size and widespread population, four-year schools in the state have plenty of reason to offer online courses as an alternative to on-campus enrollment. The sole provider of such online offerings is the University of Alaska system, which is split into three campuses: Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Southeast, each with its own distance programs and resources.
But before we take a closer look at online colleges in AK, let’s start with the current state of higher education and online education in the state.
A Brief Overview of Higher Education in Alaska
Alaska remains tied with Delaware for the fewest higher education institutions in the country with nine, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). This count includes three public, four-year universities and one two-year public school. The Last Frontier also has two private nonprofit universities, one private nonprofit college, and two for-profit schools. The NCES estimates that these nine schools educate 28,446 students. While this number shows a decline since 2010, Alaska’s schools continue to offer rigorous and exciting opportunities.
- 4 public
- 3 non-profit
- 2 for-profit
The College Board reports that the average public, four-year university in the United States charges in-state residents $10,230 per year in tuition and fees. Alaska’s average is lower at $7,820 per year at comparable schools. The nationwide average at two year institutions is $3,660 per year for tuition and fees. The University of Alaska at Fairbanks, one of the state’s flagship schools, charges $8,087 per year to Alaska’s residents; out-of-state students pay $24,257 annually.
Students often do not have to pay tuition out of pocket. The National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Program reports that during the 2015-2016 school year, the Alaska Education Grant awarded $5,286,667 to 2,725 learners. About 3,379 degree candidates received non-need-based grants that year for a total of $11,047,616. These grants were in addition to $7,093,744 in state-backed loans.
The State of Online Higher Education in Alaska
A recent online education survey found that higher education institutions in Alaska had 31,331 students in the 2015-2016 school year. About 15,084, or 48.1%, of these learners, take at least one class from online colleges in Alaska. Across the United States, the average percentage of degree candidates taking some online courses is just 29.7%.
Tuition Breaks for Out-of-State Students
Online learners who live out of state but attend classes at online schools in Alaska do not always pay high tuition rates. The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) gives students from participating states opportunities to pay reduced tuition rates at participating institutions. The member states in this organization are Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. Students from Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands may also participate. Instead of paying several times the resident rate, these out-of-state learners pay 150%. While the commission began to help in-person degree candidates, the WICHE also designed plans for online learners.
The commission’s Internet Course Exchange allows participating institutions to offer online courses for one another, allowing learners from schools in other states to take courses from online colleges in Alaska. This infrastructure keeps costs down for students and schools. These degree candidates pay for the courses through their own schools and at the same rate as their other classes. The courses go on their transcripts and count toward their degree. Students should check that their desired schools and programs participate in this exchange.
Best Online Colleges in Alaska
Below, you will find our rankings of the best online four-year programs in Alaska. Our profiles look at how schools approach online education and then list out their services for distance students and their popular, fully online degrees. After reviewing the best online schools in Alaska, explore our state resources, like a database of every college and university in Alaska or our index of popular in-state scholarships.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||Cost||Address & Contact Info||School Links||Acclaim for Online Programs||School Description|
|1||University of Alaska Fairbanks||Fairbanks||$$$$$||505 South Chandalar Drive|
Fairbanks, AK 99775-7500
Established in 1917 as the flagship campus in the University of Alaska system, UAF is internationally recognized for its research in the circumpolar north and the Pacific Rim. It serves as one of the few land-grant, space-grant, and sea-grant institutions in the nation. With seven campuses, learning centers, and marine advisory program offices, UAF boasts the state's largest higher education presence and geographic scope. The school operates collaborative maritime programs and research institutes in marine science and arctic biology.
The UAF eCampus offers many graduate and undergraduate online programs requiring no in-person participation and several occupational endorsement certificates. Programs available at the graduate level include special education, security and disaster management, and justice administration. Undergraduate programs include sport and recreation business, applied management, psychology, and paralegal studies.
The school uses asynchronous delivery methods through the Blackboard platform for most online coursework; some hybrid programs include limited on-campus requirements. Distance learners benefit from personalized admission counseling, a writing center, and a mathematics lab. Online students residing in Fairbanks may complete proctored exams at local centers without an appointment. Admission requirements include a minimum 2.5 cumulative GPA for bachelor's programs and a 3.0 minimum for graduate programs.
Offering resident tuition rates to all online students, UAF ranks among the most affordable online colleges in Alaska and the nation. As a military-friendly school, UAF offers tuition reimbursement to members of the Alaska National Guard and maintains a flexible transfer policy, including course credit for eligible military training. Students who opt for occupational endorsement certificates also receive additional tuition discounts. UAF holds regional accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
|2||University of Alaska Southeast||Juneau||$$$$$||11120 Glacier Highway|
Juneau, AK 99801-8697
Recognized for its collaborative research partnerships in the natural sciences, UAS boasts campuses in Juneau, Ketchikan, and Sitka. The school maintains the region's only maritime industry training center and emphasizes ecological sustainability and responsible stewardship.
Undergraduate online programs include accounting, business administration, fisheries technology, and Alaskan native languages; nondegree offerings include certificates and occupational endorsements. At the graduate level, UAS's programs focus on education, with master's programs in teaching, special education, and educational leadership. Distance learning programs combine asynchronous and synchronous delivery modes through the Blackboard platform. Some programs include on-campus requirements or internships at specific locations. The academic year comprises two,15-week semesters and a shorter summer term.
With small class sizes, personalized attention, and student support services, UAS ranks among the leading online colleges in Alaska. The school offers a platform for online students to connect with peers for study groups and social opportunities outside of class. Other services for online students include free technical support and tutoring. Students may also consult with UAS site coordinators at statewide locations.
The school maintains a generous transfer policy and awards credit to eligible transfer students for prior training in the military and other fields. Prospective transfer students may check UAS's resource site to search a database of previously accepted coursework. Tuition and fees are competitive, and UAS provides special degree completion incentives. UAS holds accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Most Affordable Online Colleges in Alaska
Below you’ll find Alaska’s online undergraduate programs sorted by affordability.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||School Link||Cost|
|1||University of Alaska Fairbanks||Fairbanks||School profile||$$$$$|
|2||University of Alaska Anchorage||Anchorage||School profile||$$$$$|
|3||University of Alaska Southeast||Juneau||School profile||$$$$$|
Job Outlook for College Graduates in Alaska
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that the unemployment rate in Alaska is 6.5%. This percentage is significantly higher than the national unemployment rate of 3.7%. However, the Alaska unemployment rate is on a downward trend and fell almost 1% in just six months. The BLS estimates that average full-time workers in the state earn $57,750 per year, or $27.77 per hour.
The highest-paying jobs in Alaska are usually healthcare, like pediatricians, surgeons, and dentists. Engineering managers and petroleum engineers are just below the top-10 earning professions in Alaska. In addition to salary, students should consider projected growth rate for their prospective careers.
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Alaska
Art Jess Scholarship
Applicants must have a GPA of at least 2.5 and be Alaska residents. The committee gives preference to native Alaskans, Americans, and Hawaiians. Applicants submit three letters of recommendation, transcripts, and personal essays.
Pride Foundation Scholarship
Applicants should be residents of Northwest states, demonstrate leadership in the LGBTQ community, show financial need, and face barriers to education.
BP Alaska Principal’s Scholarship Program
A candidate should submit a recommendation letter from the high school principal that shows the student will enroll in a STEM program, the student’s leadership qualities, and the student’s financial need. The applicant must be an Alaska resident.
Toby Gamble and Janet Helen Tolan Gamble Educational Scholarship
Current high school students in Anchorage accepted to a higher learning institution who plan to study a science field can apply can apply. The committee gives preference to applicants with a 3.5 GPA or higher.
American Society of Safety Professionals Scholarship
Undergraduate students with 3.0 GPAs and graduate students with 3.5 GPAs can apply. Applicants must have 60 credits and want to pursue careers in safety.
Tim Akers Memorial Scholarship
Applicants should be graduating high school seniors or enrolled college students who can prove Alaskan residency. Applicants must also plan to pursue training in technology, have at least a 3.0 GPA, and submit personal essays.
PMI Alaska Chapter Scholarship
Applicants must be Alaska residents enrolled in accredited higher learning institutions. PMI Alaska gives preference to members of the chapter.
Alaska Performance Scholarship (APS)
The Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education awards these scholarships in levels based on applicants’ GPAs, SAT or ACT scores, and high school curricula. The lowest level requires at least a 2.5 GPA and an ACT score of 21, or the equivalent on the SAT.
Tourism Cares Scholarships
Full-time and part-time learners who study tourism or related subjects, have at least a 3.0 GPA, and are enrolled in an accredited higher learning institution in the United States or Canada can apply.
Dr. John Halligan Scholarship
Alaska high school seniors who pursue healthcare-related degrees at University of Alaska campuses can apply. Learners must submit letters of recommendation, personal essays, proof of university acceptance and full-time enrollment, and a personal statement of financial need.
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