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Up, up and not away?

Seniors applying to college; finances motivate strong showing for Alaska, Western schools

Posted: Wednesday, January 06, 2010

For high school seniors, January means more than the beginning of a new year - it means a push for college applications.

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Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

This January, that's a larger push than normal, as many students are applying to more than the minimally recommended three schools so that they can compare the financial packages they're offered, said JDHS Career Advisor Terri Calvin.

"They're hedging their bets ... getting savvy financially," she said.

Calvin said kids in general are "applying like crazy, which is great."

JDHS seniors Nicole Solanoy and Ruthie Yadao, both UA Scholars, are applying to schools in the University of Alaska system. Both are also applying to the University of Alaska Anchorage for "city life" and the options there.

The top 10 percent of the student population at each Alaska high school is designated UA Scholars, meaning they'll get an $11,000 scholarship from the University of Alaska to attend.

In general, "Most (students) are undecided so they decide to stay in state to save money, and then they transfer when they know what they want (to study)," said Solanoy.

Senior Trisha Elizarde, however, said a lot of UA scholars aren't necessarily planning on applying at Alaska schools. Many she's talked to are applying to Western Undergraduate Exchange schools, she said.

The exchange, also known as WUE, allows kids from 15 western states to attend two or four-year public college in one of those states for up to 150 percent of the resident tuition rate.

Elizarde received early admission to a private school in Oregon, but because of cost, she said she's also applying to schools in Idaho and Arizona, both WUE states.

One twist to in-state applications is that some students may be returning to Juneau, something Calvin said she's noticed.

"A good number of kids are staying in Alaska ... and a fair number of kids that went out of state are now returning to the state. Finances are bringing them back to their roots, more or less," she said.

Director of Admissions at UAS Joe Nelson said the school's enrollment is up and applications for the spring semester are up, but the school doesn't have numbers of where students are from. Anecdotally, however, he and UAS Director of Public Relations and Marketing Katie Bausler said there seem to be more Juneau students returning.

Most cite financial reasons, Nelson said.

Bausler said some also say they come back because "they miss Eaglecrest."

Yaakoosge Daakahidi Alternative High School Principal Sarah Marino said about 30 to 50 percent of students at the school are at least thinking about going to college, though she doesn't yet know how many will follow through.

Marino said it was unusual even a few years ago for kids at the school to think about applying to college.

"A large majority are thinking about Alaska schools, starting at UAS,"' she said, mentioning that it's also possible for kids who want an out of state experience without the cost to do an exchange for a year. "We try to promote this because it's wonderful to keep kids in state."

She said the Western Undergraduate Exchange program isn't yet a significant draw for Yaakoosge students, but "as we keep developing that culture of 'You can go to college,' it probably will be."

"It (thinking about college) is a big shift in the way alternative high school students are thinking about their future," she said. "It's really wonderful."

• Contact reporter Mary Catharine Martin at 523-2276 or maryc.martin@juneauempire.com.



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