Students pursue ‘next level’ of education

Many high school graduates seek additional training, find it close to home

Watch out world, Central Kenai Peninsula high school graduates are going to be all over the map, studying all professions.


From aviation to drama, massage therapy to marine biology, graduating seniors seem to be set to take advantage of life post-secondary school.

“I think that the students are motivated to go to college and I think a lot of them really see the benefit of having the next level of training or education,” said Gary Wiebel, the counselor at Nikiski High School.

“They’re really motivated to pursue the degree they’re most interested in.”

Weibel said the seniors at Nikiski are really excited about college and realize that life can be challenging without some training, a degree or certification.

He said about 13 of the students are headed out of state to attend college at public and private institutions, including Stanford University, Whitman College and University of Oregon.

However, there are a number of students opting to study in-state at University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Alaska Fairbanks, as well as staying local at Kenai Peninsula College. Some 36 percent of Nikiski High School seniors will be attending a four-year college, he said. The remaining students will be attending two-year programs, vocational schools and going straight into the workforce.

“I think finance is a huge obstacle for students being able to afford college outside of Alaska,” Weibel said. “I see a trend that with the high cost of higher education and along with the economy, I think students are trying to make wise choices in regards to how much student loans they take out.”

He said that some students without scholarships or college savings realistically couldn’t afford to attend school out of state.

Sara Moore, senior school counselor at Soldotna High School, said she sees this trend with her departing seniors as well.

Finances, as well as scholarships, are an incentive for students to stay close to home, she said.

“For some of these students I would imagine the performance scholarship is encouraging them to stay,” Moore said.

She said about 60 percent of graduating seniors indicated they want to go to a four-year college, and about 20 percent want to go to certificate programs.

“As usual we have students going all over, to the East Coast to Colorado School of Mines and probably somewhat of a trend of a lot staying in state,” she said.

Vocational programs were also a popular choice among her seniors, as the industry push to get students into construction and oil and gas fields has increased the scholarship money available for these programs in the state, she said.

“We definitely gave away some decent money for students going into petroleum fields,” Moore said.

Laura Fourtner, a counselor at Skyview High School in Soldotna and at Ninilchik School, said the majority of her students are going to stay in Alaska too.

“The majority are headed to the UAA schools in a wide variety of majors,” she said. “They’re headed in a lot of different directions.”

Those directions include criminal justice, interior design and music, for some of the students that have chosen a career field.

Others are just ready to broaden their horizons.

“It’s so rewarding as a counselor, pushing them through classes, encouraging them along the way,” Fourtner said.

“It’s a lot of hard work that they’ve done.”