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Believe it or not, an online degree in Alaska comes with choice! Yes, the University of Alaska system dominates the landscape, but Alaska Pacific University is a viable alternative. Plus there’s always the option to explore distance education programs in other states—especially ones that provide discounts to Alaska learners.
Whatever decision you make, you deserve to get a good education. That’s why we’ve put together this short guide to choosing an online program in Alaska. It contains tips on finding the right degree, profiles of affordable programs, advice on how to check for accreditation, and links to useful distance learning websites.
University of Alaska schools—including all 3 UA campuses and community colleges like Sitka and Kenai Peninsula College—are deeply committed to online programs. UAA is working on a Robust Online Learning Initiative (ROLL) and UAF’s eLearning and Distance Education Division has developed an entire website (iTeachU) devoted to improving online teaching & coursework. What’s more, the vast majority of UAS degrees & certificates (85%+ in 2015) are earned through distance or hybrid programs.
If you’re thinking of UA, the first place to go is Distance Learning at UA. This website has step-by-step enrollment advice, links to financial aid webpages, and a list of all University of Alaska online programs, regardless of campus. Many UA students are cross-enrolled in e-learning courses throughout the system. Visit the individual university/community college website for more detailed information.
Alaska has an interesting approach to teacher certification. Along with the usual requirements—a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university, fulfillment of a state-approved/NCATE-accredited teacher preparation program, passing scores on PRAXIS exams—all teachers are expected to complete two 3-credit hour courses: Multicultural (MC) and Alaska Studies (AK).
These are frequently offered online! The Alaska Department of Education & Early Development (EED) has up-to-date lists of Approved MC and AK courses organized under each university. These must be completed at an Alaskan institution within the first two years of initial certification (i.e. during the teacher preparation program).
We talk about student exchange programs through the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) in our page on Affordable Colleges in Alaska, but they’re worth remembering when you’re thinking about distance learning.
Programs like the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) and Western Regional Graduate Program (WGRP) allow Alaska students to pay reduced tuition rates for out-of-state programs. Many of these programs will require you to be on-campus, but a few WUE institutions and WGRP institutions also offer online and hybrid degrees. To find out whether or not an institution offers the WUE or WGRP rate for your choice of online degree, WICHE recommends you call and ask.
When we say affordable online schools, we mean schools that appear on both our “Top Online” and “Most Affordable” lists. These meet our criteria for quality, flexibility, price, and use of financial aid money. (You’ll see a CAG Score next to the profile in our ranking.)
UAF’s eLearning & Distance Education handles its online degree programs, and it has put together a lot of useful info for prospective students. There is advice for military and veterans, guidance for high school students who wish to earn college credit (i.e. dual credit), and a list of approved UAF online courses for Alaska teacher certification.
Although UAF does charge an eLearning Distance fee, it asserts that its total online costs are well below the national average for equivalent courses. (All students enrolled in UAF eLearning courses pay resident tuition.) The Financial Aid Office also has a list of relevant scholarships and handy financial aid calculators to help you budget.
Alaska is fortunate in the sense that it’s small, so it’s hard for the bad guys to create degree mills and unaccredited universities (California has a much bigger problem!). Whenever you’re considering an online program, either in-state or out-of-state, always make sure that the school is fully accredited by an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
Even though national accreditation applies to distance learning institutions, regional accreditation is preferable, especially if you’re thinking of transferring academic credits.
If you’re unsure about a school outside of Alaska, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) Database lists both national & regional accreditations.
The School of Education at UAF offers an online Master of Education (MEd) in Innovation and Design program. Students accepted to this program can choose from the following areas of specialization: cross-cultural education, curriculum and instruction, language and literacy, and online innovation and design. The university also offers a two-year Master of Arts (MA) in Administration of Justice degree that can be earned completely online. Newly offered online is a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program with the following fields of concentration: finance, human resource management, international business, management, marketing, and travel industry management. A professional graduate degree program (master's level) in security and disaster management is also available online. On the baccalaureate level, the university recently added a Bachelor in Business Administration (BBA) program to its online roster. There are two other online undergraduate programs currently offered - Bachelor of Emergency Management (BEM) and Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Justice. Online Associate of Applied Science (AAS) programs are available in accounting, business, and information technology. For students who wish to update their skills or explore a new field, UAF offers online graduate certificate programs in accounting technician, design and construction management, healthcare reimbursement, business management, and medical and dental reception.
Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
CAG Score 93.2