Alaska is the largest state in the nation and also the least densely populated. While it is known for its rugged wilderness, the state can also be a good place to earn a degree. Students may choose to attend college in one of the state's metropolitan areas, but the availability of online colleges in Alaska means many more students across the state are likely to have access to higher education. In addition to in-state schools offering online Alaska degrees, these include institutions based outside the state which enroll residents.
The Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education notes there were 25 institutions of higher learning in the state during the 2014-15 school year. Most of these were satellite locations of the universities within the University of Alaska System. The system's three institutions each have a main campus as well as secondary campuses scattered across the state. The universities also have affiliated community colleges and technical schools. Students attending these colleges may be able to earn an associate degree and then transfer and apply those credits toward a bachelor's degree.
Best 4-Year Colleges in Alaska
Alaska schools offer a range of accredited campus-based and online degrees, but how can you know which one provides the right environment for your academic goals? We gathered statistics and did the math on tuition cost, financial aid, online courses, student services, graduate debt and more, then ranked the best colleges and universities in Alaska according to their scores. Check out the list below. When you're done here, be sure to see our rankings for the best community colleges in Alaska, too.
Public schools dominate the list of top colleges and universities in Alaska, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks stands out among them for a few reasons. It's one of the best online schools in Alaska in terms of degree variety, for one, serving as the home base for nearly half of the online degree programs offered through the University of Alaska System.
The ability to work closely with professors can make a big difference in student success, and UAF is also one of the top schools in Alaska for that sort of intimate learning environment. Despite a student population of nearly 5,700 on the main Fairbanks campus, the ratio of students to faculty members remains a comfortable 11:1.
Business administration and biological sciences are two of the most popular majors at UAF, for undergraduates as well as graduate students. Interdisciplinary graduate programs are popular as well.
The University of Alaska Anchorage is by far the largest institution among Alaska colleges and universities, reporting enrollment of nearly 18,000 students across its four campuses and more than 14,000 in Anchorage alone. Undergraduates have more than 50 Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degrees to choose from, while the graduate catalog features around 30 master's degree programs and over a dozen graduate certificates.
UAA also offers an affordable education for Alaska residents. Estimated average tuition for in-state students taking a 24-credit year came in under $6,200 for 2017-18, which amounts to a savings of around $3,700 respective to the nationwide average cost for four-year universities.
Anchorage is also Alaska's largest city, boasting a population of nearly 300,000, a range of urban amenities and close proximity to the region's natural wonders. Eco-tours, dog sledding, shopping, dining and more await Anchorage students in their time away from class.
The main campus of the University of Alaska Southeast is located in the state's capital of Juneau, but it maintains satellite locations to provide educational access to students throughout the Alaska Panhandle. UAS campuses in Ketchikan and Sitka exist to serve traditional, on-campus students, and online degree programs are available for students who need extra flexibility.
In fact, UAS is one of the top online colleges in Alaska. More than 40 of the University of Alaska System's online degrees are based in Juneau and Sitka, and the catalog includes study plans at nearly every academic level -- from associate degrees on up to master's programs.
Juneau is Alaska's "second city," having the second-largest population after Anchorage. It's also the closest Alaska city to the U.S. mainland, sitting around 900 miles north of Seattle, and features the mildest climate of any major municipality in the state.
Most Popular Degree Programs in Alaska
Students who haven't selected a major yet may want to consider of one these degree programs that are popular with Alaskan students.
In-Demand Careers in Alaska
Career growth is an important factor when selecting a degree. See if your planned education will prepare you for jobs with high projected growth rates and job openings in Alaska.
|Career Title||Projected Job Growth||Total Employment||Annual Salary|
|Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop, Nursery, and Greenhouse||100%||50||$26,030|
|Home Health Aides||27.1%||990||$29,890|
|Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists||27.1%||50||$85,730|
|Nuclear Medicine Technologists||25%||-||-|
|Mixing and Blending Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders||25%||-||-|
|Obstetricians and Gynecologists||24.4%||50||$281,170|
|Physicians and Surgeons, All Other||24%||630||$244,220|
|Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists||24%||-||-|
|Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists||23.9%||40||-|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||23.8%||-||$58,950|
|Dentists, All Other Specialists||23.7%||-||-|
|Family and General Practitioners||23.6%||480||$227,730|
|Physical Therapist Aides||23.6%||40||$46,230|
|Healthcare Social Workers||23.6%||200||$70,620|
|Diagnostic Medical Sonographers||23.6%||80||$93,740|
|Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians||23.3%||90||$67,160|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Alaska
The State of Alaska has several programs to help its residents pay for degree programs. The Alaska Education Grant goes to students who demonstrate financial need. Meanwhile, the Alaska Performance Scholarship is given to those who excel academically. There are also Alaska education loan programs which provide funds to supplement federal student loans.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
Renewable for up to four years.
- University of Alaska System
- Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education
- Alaska Career Information System
To get our list of the best colleges, we ranked 1,383 4-year colleges and universities in the U.S. Each school was scored on a 100-point scale, using the following data points and the weights specified. In order to be included in the ranking, schools had to report data for each of the following data points:
- The in-state tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- The average amount of institutional grant aid awarded to full-time, first-time undergraduate students as a percentage of in-state tuition and fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of full-time first-time undergraduates awarded any financial aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Median debt of graduates, College Scorecard, 2015-16
- 3-year student loan repayment rate of graduates, College Scorecard, 2015-16
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered on campus, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered via distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of students enrolled in any distance education classes, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2016
- Full-time student retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2016
- Graduation rate within six years, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2013-14
- Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- Dual credit
- Credit for life experience
- Advanced Placement credit
- Programs of study that can be completed entirely on weekends or in the evening
- Remedial services
- Academic and career counseling
- Job placement services for graduates
- Guaranteed tuition plan
- Tuition payment plan
- Any other alternative tuition plan
Note:Tuition prices are based on data for the 2016-17 academic year reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of tuition may vary.
All of the National Center for Education Statistics data came from IPEDS:
Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2015-16, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- School pages, accessed May 30, 2018: UAF Facts and Figures, University of Alaska Fairbanks, http://uaf.edu/facts/; Programs, Distance Learning, University of Alaska, https://distance.alaska.edu/programs/; About UAA, University of Alaska Anchorage, https://www.uaa.alaska.edu/about/; Academics, University of Alaska Anchorage, https://www.uaa.alaska.edu/academics/; 2017 Students, University of Alaska Anchorage, https://www.uaa.alaska.edu/academics/institutional-effectiveness/departments/institutional-research/_documents/2017%20Students.pdf; About UA, University of Alaska, https://www.alaska.edu/alaska/about-ua/; About the Juneau Campus and Community, University of Alaska Southeast, http://www.uas.alaska.edu/juneau/about.html; Online Programs and e-Learning, University of Alaska Southeast, http://catalog.uas.alaska.edu/online-programs-e-learning/;
- Anchorage Municipality, Alaska, QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, accessed May 30, 2018, https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/anchoragemunicipalityalaskacounty/PST045216
- Things to Do in Anchorage, Alaska, Visit Anchorage, accessed May 30, 2018, https://www.anchorage.net/things-to-do/;
- Tuition and Fees and Room and Board over Time, Trends in Higher Education, The College Board, accessed May 29, 2018, https://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/tuition-fees-room-and-board-over-time
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-18 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.
- Financial Aid, Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, Accessed June 2017, https://acpe.alaska.gov/FINANCIAL_AID