6 SCHOOLS in ALASKA
From the earliest days of colonization – first by Russia, then by the US – Alaska’s life has depended on its natural resources. With its massive coastline, fishing and whaling were early foundations for Alaska, while its wide, untouched forests made lumber and forestry major industries even before the discovery of oil; in turn, the first higher education in Alaska was defined around agricultural experiments to find the best ways to use the state’s land. Mining, minerals, and energy have dominated Alaska since the discovery of gold and oil, leading to significant expertise in engineering that has given Alaska’s research universities a global reputation.
However, as the largest state in the US, and the least densely populated, Alaska presents a world of intriguing possibilities, and distinct challenges, in higher education. While more than half of Alaska’s population (less than a million residents) lives in the city of Anchorage, with the capital of Juneau and the college town of Fairbanks being the next in line, most of Alaska’s people live in remote, rural areas, which makes educational access difficult. In the 21st century, online education has extended opportunity to regions that previously lacked them, allowing the leading colleges and universities in Alaska to make inroads to the state’s underprivileged.
Alaska’s best colleges have developed their own avenues of specialization, each taking on the needs of the state in their own ways. The University of Alaska flagship in Fairbanks, for example, is the most important research institution in environmental science, engineering, and technology, working to understand Alaska’s landscape and prepare for an uncertain environmental future. The University of Alaska Anchorage, on the other hand, prepares students for urban life, rural outreach, and service leadership, including business, public policy, and nursing. Alaska Pacific University combines its Methodist heritage with ecology and cultural preservation in a traditional liberal arts format.