Alaska’s best colleges and universities are few, but mighty – like Alaska’s people themselves. At this time, three universities qualify for a College Consensus student score: the University of Alaska Fairbanks, UA Anchorage, and Alaska Pacific University. That’s not a reflection of the quality of Alaska’s higher education, but of simple circumstances: without many people, the state can’t sustain a great many colleges. After all, nearly half of all the people in Alaska live in Anchorage; a quarter live in Fairbanks – so, of course, the state’s primary public universities are there. Home to some of the best regional universities in the West, and one of the nation’s top public research universities, Alaska’s best colleges get the job done.
To identify the Best Colleges in Alaska for 2021 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.
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. Since the United State bought the Alaskan Territory from Russia in 1867, Alaska has truly lived its motto, “North to the Future,” and as Alaska has asserted its self-reliance and native culture in the 21st century, that motto seems truer than ever. Higher education in Alaska is like higher education nowhere else – mainly because Alaska is a place like nowhere else. Physical, intellectual, and spiritual adventure are at the heart of Alaskan learning.
How the Best Colleges in Alaska Serve
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. The University of Alaska Anchorage is located next to the state’s two main medical centers – the Alaska Native Medical Center and the Providence Alaska Medical Center – making it the primary source of nurses and healthcare workers, though Alaska has no medical school of its own. Meanwhile, Alaska Pacific partners with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium to help ensure that the native people of rural Alaska are cared for.
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. Since it is located in the state’s largest city, UA Anchorage is the leading institution for all things urban, such as health sciences, business, public policy, and education. UAA is the home of the state’s foremost business school, engineering school, social work school, and more, preparing more of the state’s professionals and leaders than any other college. Meanwhile, Alaska Pacific draws on its United Methodist Church affiliation and history of liberal arts education to provide the state with one generation after another of ethical, community-focused graduates, the better to feed the professional graduate programs of the University of Alaska.
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. UA Fairbanks traces its origins back to the Agriculture and Forestry Research Station that the US government placed in the frontier back in 1906, and UAF continues to focus on knowing and understanding Alaska to its fullest. But UAF doesn’t do this work alone; sustainability and responsible stewardship of Alaska’s unique environment is a priority in all of Alaska’s universities.
Alaska’s Best Colleges: North to the Future
More perhaps than any other state, Alaska’s way of life – especially the traditional ways of life of its natives – is threatened in the 21st century, by a variety of culprits: climate change, brain drain, economic instability. While those threats are very real, Alaska also shows incredible promise – from the resurgence of native Alaskan identity, from the promise of communications technology, from the potential of alternative energy, and from the leadership of higher education.