The UA Scholars Program is designed to reduce the number of Alaska's high school graduates leaving for education and jobs elsewhere. We offer the top 10 percent of students in each qualified high school graduating class in Alaska a $12,000 scholarship to attend the University of Alaska, as an incentive to stay in their home state.
Our progress in this arena has been remarkable. Prior to the implementation of the UA Scholars Program in 1999, it is estimated that appromimately 100 students from the top 10 percent of Alaska high school graduates enrolled at the University of Alaska. Today, UA attracts over 400 new Alaska high school students who graduated in the top 10 percent of their class each year, or 42 percent of those who are eligible to receive the UA Scholar Award. This is truly wonderful progress. Our small population base will never allow us to provide all of the workers in all of the skill sets we will need. But in a state with no income tax, every one of those imported workers will use the roads, use the schools, and collect the permanent fund dividend. It is certain that we are best served by training, educating, and retaining every single Alaska resident we can.
Some say that it is natural for youngsters to want to go out and explore. First off, it's not true. Nationally, more than 80 percent of students who go on to college go to college in the state where they graduated from high school. Second, there is something that can be done about it. Simply put, we have to tell them we want them to stay. More than 7,000 of our best and brightest have accepted the UA Scholars Award since its inception. Many of these young people, who would have gone “outside” and not come home, are home. We didn’t change the nature of those students; we changed their awareness and their opportunity. The icing on the cake is the little understood fact that many of our students take advantage of a wide range of exchange programs with universities in the lower forty-eight and with several foreign universities, so our students can have it all.
Today the UA Scholars are changing the University; tomorrow they will change the state.