To be included in our ranking of the best colleges for online degree programs, all colleges had to meet the following five criteria:
- Be an accredited U.S. institution
- Offer either 2- or 4-year degree programs
- Have at least 1 percent of students taking at least some of their classes via distance education
- Be active in the 2015-16 school year
- Report data for all 15 specific ranking variables included in our methodology
We then ranked the remaining 2,169 colleges and universities and scored each on a 100-point scale on these specific. Our data points include:
- The in-state tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of undergraduate students awarded federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- The average amount of federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid awarded to undergraduate students, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Full-time Retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of students participating fully or partially in distance education to total enrollment, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Graduation rate within six years, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- No. of degree programs offered via distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2013-14
- Open admissions policy for all or most entering first-time undergraduate-level students, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Dual credit
- Credit for life experience
- Advanced Placement credit
- Academic and career counseling
- Job placement services for graduates
- Offers credit for military training
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Distance Learning at University of Alaska, accessed Dec. 19, 2018, https://distance.alaska.edu/
- "Quick Facts: Alaska," U.S. Census Bureau, July 1, 2018, https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/ak
- "State Highlights: Alaska," Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education (WICHE), accessed Dec. 19, 2018,https://www.wiche.edu/state-highlights/alaska
- "Alaska Higher Education Almanac: The State of Higher Education in Alaska 2018," Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, accessed Dec. 19, 2018,https://acpe.alaska.gov/Portals/3/OTHER/Pubs/almanac2018-web.pdf?ver=2018-01-16-124241-883
- "Who Lives in Education Deserts?" by Ben Myers, The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 17, 2018,https://www.chronicle.com/interactives/education-deserts
- "Alaska's Postsecondary Completion Crisis," Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, accessed Dec. 19, 2018, https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwid5Z757qzfAhUiqVQKHXMjBbcQFjAAegQICRAC&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.alaska.edu%2Ffiles%2Fpres%2FUA_ACPE_Completions_Crisis_Infographic.pdf&usg=AOvVaw1eHnuSDkzdP_nwj4fN1tWl
- "The Importance of Accreditation," Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, accessed Dec. 19, 2018, http://www.acics.org/students/content.aspx?id=4320
- "What is the SAT?", The Princeton Review, accessed Dec. 19, 2018, https://www.princetonreview.com/college/sat-information
- "Understanding Your Scores," ACT, accessed Dec. 19, 2018, https://www.act.org/content/act/en/products-and-services/the-act/scores/understanding-your-scores.html
Alaska's ,land mass is vast, at almost 571,000 square miles, but its population is remarkably sparse. In fact, on average, the population of The Last Frontier by square mile is only 1.2 people. For this reason, Alaska is considered an education desert, and it has the greatest majority of its population living more than 60 miles from a public college of any state in the nation, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education in their 2018 article
This is why distance learning is such an important part of Alaska's educational landscape. Online programs enable students from every corner of the state — no matter how remote or what scheduling challenges students may face — to obtain the educations they need. In this guide, you'll discover the benefits of earning an online education in Alaska, valuable information about the quality and wealth of options of online degree programs in Alaska, tips for making your online education affordable, and much more.
Why Earn an Online Degree in Alaska?
According to research from the 2018 Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education (ACPE), Alaska's postsecondary graduation rate is second-to-last among the 50 states, at only 32.1 percent, despite it having some of the highest median household incomes and lowest tuition rates in the nation. This suggests accessibility may be a primary factor in college attainment.
Yet the state is facing a serious shortfall of more than 22,000 educated workers to fill Alaska's top jobs by 2020. Earning a degree in Alaska can qualify you for positions that are in demand, but there are other benefits as well for college degree holders.
Research continually shows that income goes up with education level. Median annual salaries for Alaskans with some college but no certificate or degree come to $40,639, but with a certificate wages can increase more than 25 percent, and with a degree this can jump to an impressive $75,000.
Another reason to earn an online degree in Alaska is because the majority of students have geographic barriers to attending a traditional college. In a state with a population so spread out, distance learning has become a crucial component of higher education. Where only a portion of Alaska college students live close enough to a campus to attend class in-person, online education is accessible to anyone with a viable internet connection. Carol Gering, Executive Director of eLearning and Distance Education at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, notes another benefit, "Online courses broaden student perspectives by engaging them with peers across the state and around the world."
Featured Online Colleges in Alaska
To help you identify online colleges best suited to your needs, we've used a unique methodology to present this list of the top Alaska colleges offering online degree programs, ranked according to such factors as affordability, range of offerings, admissions rates, availability of student services and more.
Top Online Degree Programs in Alaska
To fill in-demand jobs, Alaska colleges typically offer online programs tailored to the needs of the workforce. Drawing on information from the National Center for Education Statistics, here's our list of the top online degree programs in Alaska.
Quality of Online Education in Alaska
Because distance education is such a crucial factor in making college accessible to the majority of Alaska's students, the state has taken a number of steps to ensure the quality of its distance programs.
- Since 1955, the state has been a member of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), a 16-member commission that works to improve accessibility and success rates for college students. As part of membership, the state has received funding to help with policy initiatives regarding workforce needs and distance learning.
- Alaska also has been active in the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, which examines effective practices regarding technology-enhanced learning.
- Additionally, Alaska also is a member of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA). According to WICHE, this voluntary, nationwide initiative makes states' distance education courses more accessible to students across state lines and makes it easier for states to regulate, and institutions to participate in, interstate distance education.
What to Look for in Online Degree Programs in Alaska
Not all online degree programs in Alaska are equal. Each features an array of certificates and degrees, areas of study, technological requirements and more. Here are some things to look for when deciding on an online program:
- Accreditation: This may be the most important criteria to consider in your search. Accreditation means that the college has submitted to an independent review to ensure that its offerings are rigorous and of high quality, that the school is financially stable and is meeting the needs of the workforce. It's also required that students receiving federal financial aid attend accredited institutions.
- Program requirements: Be sure that any program you're considering not only can provide you with the certificate or degree you need to meet your career or employment goals, but that you can satisfy its requirements. For instance, if it requires an on-campus component and this isn't logistically feasible for you, you should rule the program out.
- Technological requirements: Do you own, or can you obtain, the technology, supplies and system requirements that are part of the program?
- Student support: What level of support does the school offer, and do you think it is enough to suit your needs? If online tutoring, close contact with advisers and mentors, or other services are important to you, see to it that prospective programs can meet those needs.
Top Occupations in Alaska
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the state's top jobs are increasingly likely to rely on workers with a college education. Here are the top occupations in Alaska, according to BLS data.
Number of Workers
|Office and Administrative Support Occupations||51,950||$44,690|
|Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations||27,030||$28,780|
|Sales and Related Occupations||25,910||$37,490|
|Transportation and Material Moving Occupations||22,570||$59,320|
|Education, Training, and Library Occupations||21,810||$61,960|
|Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations||17,750||$100,400|
|Construction and Extraction Occupations||17,620||$65,750|
|Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations||17,460||$61,300|
|Business and Financial Operations Occupations||12,800||$77,040|
|Personal Care and Service Occupations||12,610||$33,150|
|Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations||9,580||$35,280|
|Architecture and Engineering Occupations||7,930||$106,000|
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Alaska
Proximity to postsecondary institutions is just one aspect of accessibility that higher education leaders in Alaska are working to address. They've also made affordability a priority because the state ranks last in student college participation of low-income families.
The first step students should take in receiving financial aid is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. This is what the U.S. Department of Education uses to make decisions about awarding such grant aid as the Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants and others.
Following that, students may be eligible for state-awarded aid programs, such as:
- Alaska Performance Scholarship, which awards up to $4,755 per year to high-performing Alaska high school graduates;
- Alaska Education Grant, which can provide between $500 and $4,000 in need-based funding per year to eligible Alaska students;
- UA Scholars Program, which awards $12,000 to the top 10 percent of graduating seniors from Alaska high schools.
Additionally, the state offers a number of loan programs. Students considering online degree programs in Alaska should contact their prospective schools to learn about school-specific financial aid programs offered as well.
Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-19 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.
Tests You May Need To Take
Currently there is no standard required college admissions test that Alaska students are required to take for admission to the state's colleges. Each school and program varies in its admissions policies. For example, the University of Alaska Anchorage asks prospective freshmen only to submit proof of their high school graduation and minimum GPAs of 2.5. But the University of Alaska Fairbanks and University of Alaska Southeast ask students to submit either SAT or ACT scores with their application packets.
These tests both measure students' learning in high school, but they do so in different ways:
- SAT: This three-hour, multiple-choice exam tests students on math and evidence-based reading and writing, with each of the two sections being scored on a 200 to 800-point scale. An optional essay section may be included.
- ACT: This multiple test is comprised of four sections — math, reading, writing and science — and the score of each goes up to 36 points, with the final score being an average of the four.