Cost of College

Navigating the Waters of Higher-Education Funding

Trudy Heffernan

I’ll admit this right off - my husband, Will, is on top of our finances. . So when Will and I started down the adventurous road of togetherness and decided to have children, we discussed how we’d save for their futures before they were even born. Sure, maybe they would end up going to a trade school or building boats – whatever path they would take, we knew educational expenses would be involved and these days, for University, that can be substantial  

The State of Alaska helped us out to a huge extent. We started saving with their very first Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend checks invested in the University of Alaska College Savings Plan (CSP). After   18 years of investing, our daughter has access to over   $40,000 to help with educational expenses.

She wants to attend art school and has earned our support to help to make that possible. Now, the process of selecting the right university with any college-bound teen is not easy. Also, and the bigger issue--the final selection needs to be agreed upon by the teen. As a parent I want her to get the life experience and education she needs at the best value, but part of the decision is financial and needs to have experienced college-goers count in... that would be both her parents. Luckily she took our advice on going to UAF.

Since I’m Canadian and my children qualify for resident tuition rates in Canada, our whirlwind university tour included two Canadian art schools. Soon we discovered that our narrowed-down list of schools would require subsidy/support on our part. We talked extensively about what that would mean down the road. Ultimately, she was pretty determined to go somewhere more "exotic" even though I pointed out that the reason I traveled 5,000 miles to move to Fairbanks was because this was my definition of exotic!

All throughout high school, she received information from the University of Alaska about programs and offerings. My daughter has been a great student at high school and through a lot of hard work on her part earned the Alaska Performance Scholarship at the highest level and the UA Scholars Award. Combined, these two awards gave her access to an additional $30,000. On top of that, UAF also offered her the Cornerstone and Jazz Band Scholarships. This suite of awards pushed all the other choices to the side as we began imagining her higher education with no debt--which is quite an unexpected bonus!. We previously considered investing thousands for her out-of-state experience. But UAF ultimately became the quality choice at an affordable price.

She did kind of dig in her heels at first, yet we were finally able to agree on a compromise. Attending UAF for her first two years would allow her to get those general education requirements out of the way and take advantage of her earned scholarships. We also discovered that UAF has an excellent art program that will allow her to work on the very specific portfolio requirements needed for art school. In fact, I'm anticipating the real possibility that she will have such a great experience at UAF that she might decide to stay. That's fine with me!

We just moved our new freshman into Moore Hall. Now that she’s there, she is loving the whole experience and making new friends. In her words having "SO MUCH FUN!" She’s considering new opportunities to get involved in campus life. She's excited that some new friends are also into art and music. 

Having her close by, yet giving her the dorm experience and the introduction to college life, has made letting her go so much easier. A time I somewhat dreaded has turned into a great experience for her and for me.


Trudy Heffernan graduated from UAF with a master’s degree in biology in 1987 and is also the 2011 recipient of the Alumni Achievement Award. She is currently the co-owner of Acoustic Adventures –specializing in attracting high quality acoustic acts to Fairbanks.

Back to Top