Best Community Colleges in Alaska
If you're ready to make a career change, build up credits for a transfer to one of the bachelor's degree programs at Alaska universities or just spend some time digging deep into the study of your favorite subject, the best community colleges in Alaska are the place to get started. Individual courses, certificate programs and entire degree programs are waiting to help you get where you want to go.
Many of the state's two-year schools operate within the University of Alaska System. However, they may see changes in the years to come. In 2019, the University of Alaska board of regents voted to consolidate Alaska's three public universities into a single accredited school. Some speculate that may result in some of the 13 community campuses within the system merging.
Only time will tell how the restructuring of the university system will impact the best community colleges in Alaska. But residents should continue to have a variety of options for associate degree, certificate and workforce training programs. In addition to public community campuses, the state is home to a number of private two-year schools, career and technical colleges and flight schools. Plus, there is one tribal college serving the northernmost part of the state.
Read on to learn about the best Alaska community colleges and find out how they work to help students succeed.
Currently, there are 13 public community campuses in Alaska affiliated with the state's four-year universities. For instance, Kenai Peninsula College is one of five community campuses within the University of Alaska Anchorage. The college enrolls more than 2,800 students and holds classes at three locations. Along with more than a dozen on-campus associate degree and certificate programs, five of its programs are available online.
In the state's interior, the University of Alaska Fairbanks has six community campuses. Among them is the UAF Community and Technical College. It educates more than 3,000 students each year as it prepares them for in-demand occupations. With more than 40 associate degree and certificate programs available, its options include transfer degrees, technical degrees and specialized training programs.
University of Alaska Southeast is the final public four-year school in the state, and it has two community campuses. The UAS Sitka campus is the smallest of the university's locations. However, it still offers a range of popular education programs in fields such as law enforcement, medical assisting and fisheries technology. Many of its programs are offered online.
CTE in Alaska
Many of the in-demand jobs of the 21st Century require postsecondary education but that doesn't mean you'll need a bachelor's degree to land a good job. Instead, career technical education offers the right level of training for many jobs in skilled trades, health care and business. Also known as CTE, career technical education prepares students to work in specific occupations and industries. In most cases, graduates can get the skills they need for a new career in two years or less.
To help students explore all the CTE options available, the U.S. Department of Education has broken down jobs into 16 career clusters. Each cluster represents a different area of interest, such as hospitality and tourism or agriculture, food and natural resources. Within each cluster are pathways that show the various occupations related to that area of interest and the level of education needed for each one.
Access to CTE in Alaska is also being promoted in the following ways:
- The Alaska CTE Plan has been created by state government agencies and the University of Alaska to develop strategies to promote quality career technical education.
- In 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor gave the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development a $3.35 million grant to train dislocated workers for in-demand jobs in health care, construction and maritime industries.
- The College of Rural and Community Development within the University of Alaska Fairbanks works to improve access to CTE and other postsecondary education options in rural communities.
Two-year schools will have information about their CTE programs on their websites. However, you can also read more about career technical education through the following state resources.
- Career Clusters - More details on career clusters can be found through the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development.
- Alaska CTE Plan - The Alaska CTE Plan as well as information about related programs and initiatives can be found online here.
Transferring Credits in Alaska
Community college education can be a great starting point for earning a bachelor's degree at one of the top four-year schools in Alaska, especially if you work toward a transfer from the start of your time in school. Here are some steps you can take to ensure that your shift to a university program goes as smoothly as possible:
- Check to find out if your community college maintains any articulation agreements with universities in Alaska or elsewhere
- Speak with a registrar or adviser at your destination school and find out if there are any transfer policies in place that you need to know about
- Work to maintain a grade point average of 2.5 or better; individual universities set their own grade requirements for transfer courses, and aiming for a C or better in each course you take can help you stay ahead of the curve
Also, remember to connect with your community college adviser early on in your associate degree program. Working with them when choosing courses can help you stay on track for a no-hassle transfer. If you want to read more about the transfer agreements, we recommend reading our guide on how to transfer schools as well.
For more insight into education in the state, read about the best four-year schools in Alaska.
Resources for Community College Students in Alaska
University of Alaska System - Visit here for links to all the state's public two-year community campuses.
Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education - This state agency maintains links to all public and private colleges and universities in the state. It also provides financial aid information.
Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development - More information about training opportunities, including apprenticeships, is available through this state department.
Using the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), we generated a list of colleges and universities that met the following criteria:
- Level of institution is either "At least 2 but less than 4 years" or "Less than 2 years (below associate)"
- Data is reported for all 14 ranking variables listed in the Methodology section
We ranked the resulting community colleges member schools on multiple factors related to educational opportunity, student performance and student services. Each school was scored on a 10-point scale, using the following data points:
- The published in-district tuition and fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018
- The published in-state tuition and fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018
- The in-district per credit hour charge for part-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018
- The in-state per credit hour charge for part-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018
- Percentage of students receiving financial aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
- Percent of students that transferred to a 4-year institution and completed within 8 years, College Scorecard, 2017
- The graduation rate in 150% time, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
- Full-time student retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2017
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2017
- Percentage of students enrolled in distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
- Flexibility, based on the following data points from the National Center for Education Statistics, 2018
- Whether the school offers credit for life experiences
- Whether the school offers programs of study that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
- Whether the school offers on-campus day care for students' children
- Whether the school offers any kind of alternative tuition plan. These may include, but aren't limited to, payment plans or guaranteed rates.
- Alaska Postsecondary Institutions, Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, Accessed December 2019, https://acpe.alaska.gov/Alaska-Postsecondary-Institutions
- Alaska colleges face consolidation, Ellie Ashford, August 1, 2019, Community College Daily, Accessed December 2019, http://www.ccdaily.com/2019/08/alaska-colleges-face-consolidation/
- University Campuses, University of Alaska System, Accessed December 2019, https://www.alaska.edu/alaska/campuses.php
- College of Rural and Community Development, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Accessed December 2019, https://www.uaf.edu/rural/
- U.S. Department of Labor Awards Alaska $3.35M to Prepare Alaskans for Work in High-Growth Industries, October 1, 2018, Alaska Career and Technical Education Plan, Accessed December 2019, http://www.alaskacteplan.com/news/us-department-of-labor-awards-alaska-335m-to-prepare-alaskans-for-work-in-high-growth-industries