The Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program at the University of Alaska has received $5 million to expand its high school component to Dillingham, Kotzebue and Juneau.
The program’s Acceleration Academy allows students to earn both a high school diploma and a bachelor’s degree in five years. It’s currently offered at the university’s Anchorage, Bethel and Matanuska-Susitna campuses.
Program founder and vice provost Herb Schroeder said it helps the state and families save money.
“The cost to government for a graduate from our university is around $300,000, and the cost to government for students to graduate from Acceleration is $88,000,” he said. “We want to make this opportunity available for every single student in the state.”
Schroeder started ANSEP after seeing how many students from rural communities were unprepared for college math and science classes. The first Acceleration Academy started in the Mat-Su in 2015.
Acceleration Academy students spend about half of their day in traditional classes, and the other half working together on projects or in study groups. Schroeder said about 70% of ANSEP’s students are Alaska Native.
“This whole idea of collaboration came out of Alaska Native culture, where everyone works together to be successful,” he said. “If you live in the village, everybody depends upon each other.”
Some student housing is available at the Bethel location. The funding will also allow the university to offer student housing at the Anchorage campus, which, Schroeder said, will make it more accessible.
“There’s a lot of students who live in communities that don’t have access to those rural campuses that the university has,” he said. “And they can come in starting in 9th grade and live in our residence halls and attend the Acceleration Academy we have on our campus here.”
The Dillingham, Kotzebue and Juneau programs will begin this fall. Next, Schroeder hopes to expand even further — to Kodiak, Nome and Fairbanks. Schroeder’s goal is to offer the program in every community with a University of Alaska campus, which also includes Soldotna, Homer, Palmer, Valdez, Ketchikan and Sitka.