Best Colleges in Alaska

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Alaska is home to ten accredited universities and many technical and vocational colleges. With so many schools to pick from, choosing the one that best aligns with your academic and professional interests can be tricky. Prospective students need to consider a variety of factors as they evaluate colleges, including program length, cost, location and scholarship availability.

Fortunately, we have applied our rigorous methodology to the latest education data to rank the best colleges in Alaska, including the top four-year and two-year schools. Using statistics from federal education databases, we evaluated various metrics, including each school’s acceptance, enrollment, retention and graduation rates. Below, you’ll find our list of the best colleges in Alaska.

Approximately 40% of Alaskan students enroll in colleges elsewhere, constituting something of a ‘brain drain’ throughout the state. The shortage of college graduates has led the state to adopt measures supporting postsecondary students, and they’re one of only two states to increase spending on higher education per student since the 2008 financial crisis. Alaska increased its higher education budget by 20%, vastly improving the resources available to students and schools.

While Alaska’s blue collar industries offer ample job opportunities for residents with a high school diploma, most high-paying jobs are limited to applicants with postsecondary degrees. Considering that Alaskans with a bachelor’s degree earn 47% more than non-degree holders, it’s important to invest in your education. Between the government’s expenditures on Alaska’s colleges and recent trends on the job market, the higher education climate in the state is very healthy. Below, we’ve listed all of the four-year schools in Alaska, covering their exploits and academic offerings.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1University of Alaska Fairbanks 1/532.24%Fairbanks, AK

Alaska Fairbanks is one of three four-year colleges in the University of Alaska System. UAF has seven campuses across the state and an international student body of over 11,000. It is also one of only a handful of US colleges to have the triple designation as a land, sea, and space grant university, The university is renowned for its climate change research.

UAF includes nine colleges and schools, each offering a diverse selection of certificates, undergraduate, and graduate degrees. Popular majors among incoming first-year students include biological studies, petroleum engineering, mechanical engineering, and pre-nursing qualifications. UAF is the leading doctoral-granting institution among Alaska colleges, and offers PhDs in anthropology, mathematics, natural resources and sustainability, and more.

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2Alaska Pacific University 4/560%Anchorage, AK

Alaska’s only accredited private university, APU recently reduced its tuition in order to provide students easier access to higher education. Like other four-year colleges in Alaska, APU is dedicated to educating the state’s native population while also serving students from across the U.S. and the world. Students here have access to some of the best wilderness areas in the world, and the school offers several outdoor programs that allow them to explore it, including sea kayaking, canoeing, ice climbing, backpacking, skiing, and more.

APU offers a range of undergraduate programs, with courses such as Alaska native governance, environmental science, and marine biology taught both in the field and in the classroom. The university also offers master’s- and doctorate-level programs, including a combined graduate certificate and MS degree in outdoor and environmental education.

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3University of Alaska Anchorage 2/525.04%Anchorage, AK

With its breathtaking landscape of lakes and ponds and a trail system extending into the city, the University of Alaska Anchorage has one of the nation’s most beautiful campuses. UAA is Alaska’s largest university, with four satellite campuses in Homer, Kodiak, Soldotna, Valdez, and Mat-su. While the school serves over 16,000 students, it offers intimate an intimate classroom environment with a student-to-faculty ratio of 11:1.

UAA is also home to several centers and institutes dedicated to the unique needs of Anchorage and Alaska communities, including the Environment and Natural Resource Institute, the WWAMI Medical School, and the Alaska Center for Rural Health. UAA offers dozens of undergraduate, graduate, vocational and professional certificate programs, with a focus in Arctic issues.

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4University of Alaska Southeast 2/516.88%Juneau, AK

UAS is one of three colleges in the University of Alaska system. The school’s main campus is in Juneau and sits alongside the spectacular Tongass National Forest and Juneau Icefield. The school also has satellite campuses in Sitka and Ketchikan.

The university has four academic schools, and offers wide range of bachelor’s and master’s degrees, as well as a nine-month outdoor skills and leadership certificate. Areas of study include Alaska native languages & studies, fisheries, marine technology, theater, and more.

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Alaska ranks 49th in the nation (29.5%) in the percentage of post-secondary educational degrees awarded to 18-34 year-olds. Alaska’s younger workforce is undereducated and an associate degree or technical certificate can separate you from other applicants as you search for gainful employment.

Alaska’s job market is dominated by the oil and gas, logging and commercial fishing industries. Two-year colleges provide an excellent opportunity for students to gain vocational and technical skills directly applicable to jobs in these fields. Additionally, the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development estimates that 65% of the state’s fastest growing well-paying jobs will require some form of postsecondary degree by the year 2020. With those factors in mind, now is the right time to pursue a two-year degree in the state. To help you evaluate the various two-year options in Alaska, we’ve ranked the state’s top programs below.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1AVTEC Alaska’s Institute of Technology  N/ASeward, AK

Located in Seward, Alaska, AVTEC – Alaska’s Institute of Technology stands out among Alaska colleges as a trusted resource for postsecondary workforce training and education. AVTEC continues to report significantly above average job placement statistics for each of its programs, and the Council on Occupational Education (COE) recently reaffirmed its accreditation of the school.

AVTEC offers a range of opportunities for vocational and technical training, including programs in applied technologies, energy and building technology, information technology, nursing, and professional cooking and baking. AVTEC’s Alaska Maritime Training Center provides USCG/STCW compliant training. The college also offers a selection of online courses.

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2Ilisagvik College 1/523.08%Barrow, AK

Located in Barrow, Alaska, Iḷisaġvik College is the only tribal college in the state. The school offers two-year associate degrees and certificates designed to meet the workforce needs of employers in the Arctic. Distance education courses are also available. Iḷisaġvik College is fully accredited, so students can transfer to a four-year institution if they desire.

Unlike other colleges in Alaska, Iḷisaġvik College provides quality education and vocational training specific to state’s rural residents, especially those who wish to work close to their village and family. Each of the college’s programs reflects the values of the Iñupiat (Eskimo) people.

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3Alaska Christian College 2/5N/ASoldotna, AK

Alaska Christian College seeks to provide Alaska natives with the means to achieve a high level of success as followers of Christ, both in their education and service upon graduation.

The college offers two associate degree programs, one in Christian ministry, the other in paraprofessional education, with a focus on preparing graduates to work in rural Alaskan settings. Alaska Christian College also offers a one-year Certificate of Biblical Studies. The college is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of the Association for Biblical Higher Education.

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If you’re thinking about applying to one of the best colleges in Alaska, continuing reading to learn more about living in the Land of the Midnight Sun.

Alaska is nicknamed ‘The Last Frontier’ for a reason; the state is comprised of 663,268 square miles but contains only 730,000 residents, making it the least densely populated state in the country. Natural beauty and bountiful wilderness characterize the state’s landscape, and Alaska is a popular destination for people who love the great outdoors.

It isn’t just the space and scenery that attracts people to Alaska; the state’s 2013 median household income of $72,237 is second best in the nation. Of course, high wages generally follow a high cost of living, and as the 4th most expensive state, Alaska is no exception. These costs stem from the state’s isolation, as food, fuel and assorted goods are expensive to acquire. Fortunately, Alaska is the only state without income or sales tax, which helps alleviate the financial burden. To further offset these costs, Alaska’s permanent residents are entitled to a yearly stipend of oil and natural resource funds. Known as the Alaska Permanent Fund, residents will receive $2,072 in 2015.

Regional Spotlight: Southcentral Alaska

  • Major Cities: Anchorage, Wasilla, Kenai
  • Attractions: Kenai Fjords, Alaska Range
  • Cost of Living: Anchorage’s Numbeo Cost of Living
  • Popular Schools: University of Alaska Anchorage, Alaska Pacific University, Charter College

Regional Spotlight: Alaska Interior

  • Major Cities: Fairbanks
  • Attractions: Mt. Denali, Denali wilderness, Pioneer Park
  • Cost of Living: Fairbanks’ Numbeo Cost of Living
  • Popular Schools: University of Alaska Fairbanks

Regional Spotlight: Southeast Alaska

  • Major Cities: Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka
  • Attractions: Glaciar Bay National Park and Preserve, Klondike Gold Rush Historical National Park, Alaska State Capitol
  • Cost of Living: Juneau
  • Popular Schools: University of Alaska Southeast


Beyond inexpensive tuition, Alaska offers significant benefits to permanent residents. Top perks include access to the Alaska Permanent Fund and discounted hunting and fishing licenses. A condition of establishing residency is that students must prove their intention to make Alaska their permanent home. Proving intent can be difficult, and the state relies on ‘customary ties’ such as home ownership and employment history to guide their evaluatory process.

For Minors:

Minors qualify for residency status if they are the dependent child of an Alaskan resident with a local tax return in the 16 months prior to application, or if they graduated from high school in Alaska in the past 12 months.

For Adults:

In order to become a resident of Alaska, you are required to have not claimed residency or paid tuition at an educational institution in another state for two years prior to your residency application. A condition of receiving residency is a required commitment to remaining in Alaska indefinitely. Proof of a commitment consists of either home rental or ownership or employment in Alaska for the past two years.

Additional Resources for Alaska College Students

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