April 19, 2001

Alaska Ranks 49th Among States Whose High School Graduates Go On to College

April 19, 2001  NR 07-01

Even though the number of recent Alaska high school graduates who attend the University of Alaska is edging upwards for the third consecutive year, Alaska is still 49th among the states when it comes to the percentage of high school graduates who go on to college. Only Nevada ranks lower.

Alaska has room for considerable improvement in the rate at which its high school graduates attend college, and in the rate at which those college-bound students choose UA over alternatives in other states.

"The University of Alaska has great opportunities for growth in the near future," said University President Mark R. Hamilton. "Only 40 percent are going to college and of that group, 60 percent are leaving, many to attend schools very similar to, or in many cases, lower in quality to the University of Alaska. While this is disheartening, it does suggest that UA can compete for these students by continuing to highlight the quality of academic programs and student life."

The number of Alaska high school graduates who go on to postsecondary education, and specifically to programs offered through UA has been identified by University policy makers and state lawmakers as a high priority area of public interest.

The growing need to train Alaskans for Alaska jobs has generated a renewed focus on the need to expand Alaska's trained workforce in nearly every occupational category from construction to health care providers, engineers, teachers, and business executives. Over 80% of the students who receive their postsecondary education in Alaska stay in the state to work, raise families and contribute to their communities while fewer than half of the students who leave the state for college return to Alaska. Alaska business leaders know it is in their interest to see a strong and responsive University of Alaska that is able to offer programs that will attract Alaskaƕs high school graduates. Recent advertisements in state newspapers, developed and paid for with private sector funds, state simply: "The University of Alaska is Good Business."

In 1996 and 1997, 18% of Alaska high school graduates enrolled at UA, and in 1998, the percentage rose to 21% which translates to 1,360 students. In 1999 and 2000, the percentage rose to 22% which is about 1,500 students. The university has set as its goal to enroll 26% of Alaska high school graduates within three years, and to meet the national average of 41% within seven years.

Oregon, Washington and Idaho together draw one-third of Alaska's high school graduates leaving the state. Of all recent grads going out of state, 53% attend public 4-year institutions and 36% attend private non-profit 4-year institutions. The remaining 11% are split among public two-year, private for-profit two year, private for-profit four-year, and private non-profit two-year, in descending order of enrollment.

The UA Scholars Program is having a beneficial effect on the number of Alaska high school graduates who decide to go to school at home instead of out of state. In fall 1999, of the 811 UA scholars eligible, 270 attended. In fall 2000, of the 875 eligible, 343 attended UA.
The report, College Enrollment Patterns of Alaska High School Graduates, which summarizes the results of the most recent Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Fall Enrollment and Migration Survey, is available on the web at http://www.alaska.edu/oir/ipeds.html

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Bob Miller 907-474-6311