Fall enrollment is down at most University of Alaska campuses. Early numbers show the UA headcount off 4.5 percent, or over one thousand students, from last fall. The highest declines are at Southeast and Fairbanks campuses.
Ian Olson, the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Director of Institutional Research, said enrollment is dropping at the UAF campus as student retention and graduation rates rise.
”We’re graduating fairly large classes and we’re getting fewer incoming students, so our replacement rate is down,” Olson said. “Our first-time freshmen enrollment numbers are down.”
Olson said it’s natural for enrollment to level back coming off a recessionary bump, but the UA system is seeing the decline continue and even increase.
”To some degree we have to recognize that it is linked to uncertainty related to Alaska’s economy and really the budget circles coming out of Juneau and the Legislature,” Olson said. “That uncertainty, we think, is causing some student to consider enrollment elsewhere.”
Olson said the decline runs counter to assessments which continue to show the University of Alaska to be a good value compared to Lower 48 institutions.
”We frequently get lifted on best value in the West type of rankings from various ranking agencies that are out there,” Olson said. “UAF and UAA in general are recognized a great deal for those seeking higher education.”
Olson notes that there are some bright spots in UA enrollment including an increase in the number of UAF community and technical college students this fall, something he said may correspond with a slight uptick in local unemployment.