State's higher education performance earns average grade overall

Posted: Sunday, December 03, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- When it comes to higher education, Alaska is nowhere near the top of the class.

The state earned an overall grade of ''C'' in a national study that looks at each state's higher education performance. It received its highest marks for helping students take advantage of college, earning an ''A-.'' But it scored an ''F'' for completion and a ''D+'' for general participation.

The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education conducted the study.

Its findings didn't come as surprise to some educators.

''The university has recognized this issue and is aggressively pursuing programs to increase the participation of Alaska high school graduates, including the UA Scholars program, increased recruitment efforts and expanding degree program offerings,'' Bob Miller, a spokesman for the University of Alaska, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

''Currently, Alaska has about half the number of baccalaureate degree program offerings as other less populated western states.''

Harry Gamble, a Department of Education spokesman, said he hasn't studied the report carefully. But he said it's yet another study that's based on statistics rather than reality.

Here's a look at Alaska's report card:

Preparation: A- -- Eighty-nine percent of Alaska's students earn their high school diploma, compared with 93 percent nationally.

Participation: D+ -- Only 31 percent of those between the age of 18 and 24 are enrolled in college in Alaska. That's 11 percent lower than the best-performing state's numbers.

Completion: F -- Due to the small sampling data in the state, three of the four statistical measures in this category were missing. If you throw this grade out, Alaska has a grade-point average a full letter grade higher.

Benefits: B -- This category examines the educational and civic achievements of Alaska residents and how that benefits the state as a whole. The study measured statistics, such as the percentage of the population with at least a bachelor's degree (27 percent compared to 34 percent nationally) and the number of residents who voted in the 1996 and 1998 national elections (57 percent to 60 percent).

Affordability: C -- With no state aid to students who can't afford the cost of higher education, Alaska performs poorly when matched against much of the nation. Miller said the UA Scholars program, which gives the top 10 percent of students who graduate in the state free tuition, is helping address the situation.

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