To identify the Best Colleges in Alaska for 2017-2018 we averaged the latest results from the most respected college ranking systems with thousands of real student review scores from around the web to produce a unique College Consensus rating for each school. You won’t find a more comprehensive ranking of the top colleges and universities in Alaska anywhere. Read more about our rankings methodology and sources at our about page.
Colleges & Universities in Alaska
Alaska, the largest state in the US, has long been a symbol of that classic American impulse – to light out for the territory, as Mark Twain put it, and make your own way. The Last Frontier, they call it, but Alaska is not a Neverland of imagination; it’s a real place, with real people, and Alaska’s best colleges and universities meet those people in the places they are.
The best colleges in Alaska are united by their dedication to Alaska’s uncommon character. All have deep roots in community service, activism, and aid, from preserving Native Alaskan cultures to meeting medical and educational needs in Alaska’s many small, isolated rural communities. All are similarly motivated by the need to prepare leaders for Alaska’s future in business, science, government, medicine, and education, and to stem the brain drain that has often lured Alaska’s best and brightest away. Finally, all of Alaska’s research and teaching universities put their heart into the rugged but fragile Alaskan landscape, studying to understand, and working to stop, the threats that climate change poses to the arctic. Alaska’s higher education takes part in every level of Alaskan culture and society, from field research to public policy, all to make Alaska the best it can be.
Today, Alaska has only four accredited universities; as yet, only three have been featured in enough national rankings and student reviews to generate a Consensus Score. These are the top Consensus colleges for the Last Frontier State.
Alaska Pacific University
A small liberal arts institution in the forests of Anchorage, AK, Alaska Pacific University was founded in 1957 as Alaska Methodist University. Its founder, Peter Gordon Gould, was an Aleut who was seminary-educated and became the first Native Alaskan to serve as a United Methodist minister. Today, Alaska Pacific is an independent university, though it retains its historic ties to the United Methodist Church in many ways, including its curricular dedication to spiritual growth. Alaska Pacific is also part of the Eco League, a group of small liberal arts colleges that share a deep commitment to environmental learning and activism.
With its large, wooded main campus off the Anchorage Trail, and a 900 acre farm campus, Alaska Pacific puts a priority on experiential, in-the-field learning, emphasizing not only collaborative work and mentorship with faculty, but self-directed, self-motivated, active research. In keeping with its origins and founder’s vision, Alaska Pacific also prioritizes education for Alaska’s native peoples, including the Rural Alaska Native Adult program that reaches out to Alaska’s working adults. With low tuition and excellent student support, Alaska Pacific lives out its vision to be a best college in Alaska every day.
University of Alaska Fairbanks
The flagship of the University of Alaska system, UA Fairbanks was founded in 1917 on a federal land grant, its original mission to continue the research work of the Agricultural Experiment Station, as well as provide necessary training and education in agriculture and mining, Alaska’s main industry at the time. Over the course of the next century, UAF grew into a major public research institution, gaining sea and space grant status, and collaborating with Oregon State University’s sun grant as well, fully encompassing the research potential in Alaska’s unique environment and landscape.
UAF is the center of culture and learning for Alaska, giving students access not only to cutting-edge research and crucial career skills, but also helping to preserve Native Alaskan culture and build modern Alaskan society for the 21st century. At UAF, that means not only leading research in climate change and the arctic environment, but also taking forward steps in engineering, energy, and supercomputing. The College of Rural and Community Development, and the School of Education, both play key roles in improving the lives of Alaska’s rural and low-income populations, and bringing Alaskan society in line with modern development. While UAF is small compared to many other research universities in its class, it asserts its importance not just in Alaska, but on the world stage – a best college by all measures.
University of Alaska Anchorage
The largest public research institution in Alaska, the University of Alaska Anchorage originated in 1954 as Anchorage Community College, which offered courses to personnel at Elmendorf Air Force Base. In time, local demand became high enough that a senior college was established for degree completion, and by 1977 UA Anchorage came into its own as a full research university. Where UA Fairbanks founds its research and learning in the physical sciences, UA Anchorage puts more of an emphasis on the social sciences, including business and public policy, social work, and nursing.
Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city, and fitting its urban setting, UA Anchorage sets community engagement as a priority in its research and learning. UAA’s research centers focus on local needs, from social justice and economic development to addiction studies and rural health. In the classroom, and in the real world, UAA’s students engage in learning, research, and activism related to Alaska’s unique needs, helping to educate Alaska’s populace and leaders on critical issues. Students also benefit from an 11:1 student/faculty ratio, a rarity in a public research university UAA’s size, giving students access to faculty mentorship and hands-on, experiential learning that makes all the difference in their career preparation and job market success.