More Alaskans staying in state for college

Posted: Wednesday, July 07, 2010

JUNEAU - Nearly two-thirds of Alaska's college-bound high school students enroll in Alaska universities, reversing a trend from a decade ago, a University of Alaska official said.

Saichi Oba, University of Alaska associate vice president of student affairs, said that figure represents a 13 percentage-point boost from a decade ago, though it remains below the national average.

"Are we standing on our own? Not yet, but we've come a lot further than most state systems of higher education in the last 10 years," Oba told the Alaska Journal of Commerce.

In the mid-1990s, the University of Alaska attracted only 45 percent of college-bound students from this state, Oba said.

Many state lose students to other regions because an academic program or a particular athletic scholarship may not be available.

But Oba said keeping fewer than half of the state's eligible students in state was unacceptable.

Improved academic programs, a scholarship program for top students and the growth in Alaska Native graduates have helped reverse the trend.

The growth in health care programs offered has also attracted more Alaska college-bound students, Oba said. Last fall, 2,400 students enrolled in health programs, a 13 percent jump from 2005, according to a report to the Legislature. The number of nursing graduates has doubled since 2005, for example.

When Alaska students pursue college out of state, more go to Washington state than any other state, according to a Alaska Department of Labor report.

Oba said Alaska still ranks low nationwide in providing financial aid to needy students. According to a university report, Alaska students carry about $5,384 more in debt than the national average and $8,441 more than their peers in Western states.

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