A Guide to Online Colleges in Alaska

Here is our ranking of the best universities in Alaska. The University of Alaska system is only accessible by way of Ferry.

Updated February 1, 2024

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Alaska — "The Last Frontier" — is one of only two outer states in the nation and is actually situated Northwest of Canada. The biggest state by size, Alaska is one of the very smallest states by population. That is partially due to being one of the last settled (and last ratified) states, it's remoteness, and it's location in the far, far north (large portions of the state are above the arctic circle). In addition to bordering with Canada, in its most western part — Attu Island — Alaska also holds a maritime border with Russia. In fact, in 1830 the United State purchased Alaska from the Russian Empire, and today you can still find Russian Orthodox Churches among other unique forms of turn-of-the-century architecture. However, Alaska is probably best known for its wild, rugged, and breathtaking nature. Home to thousands of glaciers, grizzly bear, moose, whales, views of the Aurora Borealis, the volcanic Aleutian Islands, and mountain ranges that serve as more than just thousands of miles of backdrop, Alaska is home to unabashed adventurers who live connected to the land and in some ways disconnected from "creature comforts". A case in point. You won't get to Juneau (yes that's the state's capital) by interstate. Juneau, like many of the islands and sounds surrounding Alaska, is only accessible by way of Ferry. Looking to hitch a ride in Fairbanks? This inland city uses dog sleds for transportation, and is a spot for ice fishing, hunting and trapping. Once a state known for these trades, today much of the industry in Alaska is similar to those found across the nation — that is healthcare, transportation, and hospitality. However, commercial fishing still makes a tremendous impact on Alaska's economy (particularly salmon). The subarctic climate means that Alaska is one of the few places on earth where tremendous research is being done on a very important topic — ice. The State of Alaska University system houses three major research universities that are dedicated to understanding climate change, the impact of melting permafrost and what this story can tell us about today's planet and changes that we are seeing. Because of this, one may query, is "The Last Frontier" state really the gateway state of future generations? Will Alaska be a state that drives our understanding of climate change? Maybe the last frontier will be the first of a whole new sub-species of humans who seek resources in the coldest of our warming areas. Whatever your musings are on Alaska — its traditions, its natives, and its unique climate — there is one unanimous truth. Those who call Alaska'home' can't picture life anywhere else.

In-state tuition is often applied to public schools offering online programs. Many online programs require some face-to-face time, or more numerous support services at their brick and mortar locations. Intensive study experiences — often on the weekends or in several week long bouts — enable many online students to accelerate their time until graduation. And students looking at online education can drastically expand their educational options if they also look to hybrid degrees (degrees where degrees can be taken partially, or mostly online). Finally, one of the most common stipulations in scholarships is that students be from a certain state or region, often more funds are available to students seeking degrees in-state. For these reasons, even though online education is generally available across all states, there are many reasons to look at online programs in one's home state first.

Featured Online Schools

Top Public Schools

Our top public schools are part of the university of Alaska school system and include the Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Southeast campuses. The University of Alaska Fairbanks offers 28 degrees from the associate to master's level including an associate degree in community health, a B.A. in Alaska Native studies, and a MA in Curriculum and Instruction as well as several others. The University of Alaska Anchorage, one of the top 100 schools for the region, offers 9 degrees online: 2 associate and 7 master's degrees in fields like nursing, education, and public health among others. The University of Alaska Southeast offers a total of 25 online degree programs that range from the associate to the master's level. Degrees include a BA in elementary education, an associate in health information management, as well as a several M. Ed. in various areas of specialization. As a whole, the University of Alaska system is serving over 35,000 full and part-time students and continues to grow and develop with these fantastic online degree opportunities.

Top Private Schools

The two private schools that made it to our ranking are Alaska Pacific University and Charter College of Anchorage. Alaska Pacific University is ranked as the 52nd best school in the region and offers three online bachelor's degrees in business administration, accounting, and human services. Charter College of Anchorage is a for-profit private institution that offers 8 online degree options that range from an associate to master's degree including an A.A.S. in computer networking systems, B.S. in Health Care Administration, and an online MBA. Charter College also has locations in Wasilla.

How to Become a Resident

Unlike most states that require one year of domicile to be considered a resident, the state of Alaska requires a physical presence of two years. There are, however, many exceptions. These include students who have received a State of Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend, military personnel on active duty along with their spouses and dependents, a dependent of a person who graduated and holds an associate, bachelors master's or doctoral degree from the University of Alaska, and more. Domicile may be proved in a number of ways through filing income tax, utility bills, and voter registration. Those who will not be considered residents were individuals absent from Alaska for more than 120 days other than for issues like illness, an individual that has claimed residency in another state or voted in another state, is registered as a resident in an institution outside of the state of Alaska, or is a member of the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE). Though the WUE does qualify an individual for a significant reduction in tuition rates, this status is not considered residency status. That's it for Alaska, showing domicile. So if you love Alaska, can not wait to study at some of the most unique programs in the nation, then move there! Take a couple of years to acquaint yourself with the place and its people, and then you can benefit from some of the lowest public education tuition rates in the country.

In 2016-17 the average published tuition prices for Alaska public four-year universities was $6,192 for in-state tuition. This is $3,208 below the national average! Out-of-state participants pay more than twice that at $22,800 per year, which is nearly four times the amount for in-state tuition. WUE students from certain western states may quality for a tuition break. We recommend checking our resources section below to see if you are a resident in one of those qualifying states. The University of Alaska system provides some of the best public universities in the region in addition to the incredible experience gained studying in this very unique state and is incredibly affordable for this caliber of public universities. Those who study from home will save

If you spent a day walking on a glacier, observing moose in their natural habitat, and hiking a national park, then you must be in Anchorage. Living in Anchorage is unlike anywhere else in the country. Glaciers serve as more than just an interesting backdrop. In Anchorage, they are literally what have shaped the area for thousands of years. Today, you can paddle a kayak right through the glacier lakes or even climb them. The Chugach is another one of Anchorage's great backdrops just 20 minutes from downtown Anchorage. Nature enthusiasts love the trailheads for hiking, biking, as well as rafting, ATVing kayaking, and fishing. In Anchorage — the most populous city in the state — wildlife and human life are not a dichotomy. In fact, the surrounding natural resources impact large portions of the local economy as do other common industries like healthcare, retail, and public administration. The University of Alaska Anchorage, the largest university in the University of Alaska system, is here and enrolls over 16,000 students and continues to impact the community through its education and research opportunities. Opportunities are particularly abundant in relation to studying impact on the arctic. Anchorage is a subarctic city known for its short cool summers and dramatic winters. Downtown houses a number of cultural riches including museums, Alaska Center for the Performing Arts, and so much more.

Surrounded by mountains and hidden away on the Gastineau Channel in the Alaskan panhandle is the state capital, Juneau. According to the Tlingit, the people-group indigenous to the Pacific Northwest, Juneau had many names including "Dzantiki'i Heeni" or the "base of the flounders' river" "Aak'w" translated as "little lake", and "t'aakh", named after the cold winds that form as the blow down the mountains. Unlike most capital cities, Juneau is not connected to mainland Alaska via roads. Visitors will have to take a ferry, which seems to add to it allure. As you may have guessed, this remoteness means that Juneau is not heavily populated. While most of Alaska never sees this many people, Juneau is home to over 30,000 people. And that number increases even more in summer months. Overall, however, Juneau still feels like uncharted territory or an ancient tribe just awaiting discovery. Downtown Juneau is compact and walkable. Visitors can easily spot restaurants, museums, turn-of-the century architecture and even a Russian Orthodox Church (Alaska is pretty far out there, after all). Just outside of Juneau, locals tend to stay on foot, as there are many magnificent reasons to ake a hike. Hikeable destinations outside of Juneau include the Mendenhall glacier and the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Other unique Juneau activities include whale watching and dog sled rides. Unique industries in Juneau include salmon fishing as well as research roles at the University of Alaska Southeast. UA Southeast currently enrolls over 3,400 students and provides 25 fully online degree opportunities.

Located in the interior of Alaska, Fairbanks is the city that still retains its "old frontier" feel. Imagine summers with 21 hours of daylight, winter's with three, and a consistent view of the Aurora Borealis (northern lights). This almost mystical area holds fast to ancient traditions and its inhabitants seem almost fearless. Traveling out of town by way of dog sled is common, and outdoor activities are not a recreational choice but rather just part of life in Fairbanks. Being landlocked has meant for some treacherous times in the past, and given birth to unique folklore. As Fairbanks is one of the closest cities to the arctic circle, it is an important research outpost for climate science. The state's flagship university, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, is a sea, land, and space-grant university, and understandably an important center for arctic research. The university is home to the International Arctic Research Center, the Institute of Arctic Biology, the Institute of Marine Science, and the Institute of Northern Engineering. One of the most unique cities we've surveyed at Best College Reviews, there are few other places in the world that students and scientists can study the history of our climate to such an extent. This "hot topic" has become the a focal point for scientists across the globe and the industry in Fairbanks mirrors that. In addition to education and research, other common industries in Fairbanks include accommodation and food service industries, public administration, and healthcare.


Population: 301,010
Cost of Living: 102.7%
Top Industries: Retail, public administration, healthcare
Local Online Degrees: 1


Population: 32,406
Cost of Living: 90.7%
Top Industries: Public administration, healthcare, education
Local Online Degrees: 1


Population: 32,469
Cost of Living: 104%
Top Industries: Accommodation and food service, public administration, retail
Local Online Degrees: 1

The Best Online Colleges in Alaska

1. University of Alaska Fairbanks

Online Programs: 28
Type: Public

The University of Alaska Fairbanks is a public university located in Fairbanks, Alaska. Fairbanks is the largest city in the interior region of Alaska known, like many parts of Alaska for its subarctic climate and dramatic winters. UAF is a public land, sea, and space-grant university and enrolls 8,719 students. According to U.S. News UFA is ranked as the 202nd best university in the nation, 110th best public school in the nation, and has notable business and engineering programs. The student-to-faculty ratio remains low at just 11:1, and students benefit from many classes containing fewer than 20 people. As a research school with many types of grants, you can probably imagine that UFA is filled with diverse research opportunities. This is exemplified by its status as a founding member of the University of the Arctic. The University of the Arctic is a consortium of colleges, universities, and research organization that work in the 8 arctic nations to build upon education and address the specific needs of these unique regions. In addition, UFA is extracting rare earth minerals from coal ash, and so much more. IN fact UAF as been listed in the top 11 of more than 10,000 institutions across the world for their work on climate change. That being said, students at UAF may choose from many majors from any of the nine unique colleges and schools offering degrees. Degree offerings at the university are comprehensive. Online UAF offers 28 degree programs that range from an associate in community health to a masters in cross-cultural studies. There's something for everyone at UAF.

2. University of Alaska Anchorage

Online Programs: 9
Type: Public

The University of Alaska Anchorage is a public university located in Anchorage, Alaska. Anchorage is the most populous city in Alaska and is located at the end of the Cook Inlet on a peninsula. As the campus is nestled along something referred to as a green belt, the campus has been recognized as a tree campus by the Arbor Foundation. There are 16,933 students enrolled at the university. Students benefit from small clasroom sizes and a student-to-faculty ratio of just 12:1. The campus is diverse; UAA serves over 2000 Native Alaskans, American Indians, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students. Many of the college's satellite campuses are located in traditional homelands. According to U.S. News UAA is ranked as the 73rd best college in the region, and 23rd best public school. The school is particualrly known for their engineering department. UAA is the state's largest university and utilizes satellite campuses in Kodiak, Soldotna, Valdez, and Mat-Su. Part of UAA's efforts include something known as "arctic engagement" by way of study abroad programming, UAA in partnership with Tromso, arctic research, north2north exchange and more. UAA engages their students through 9 colleges including arts and sciences, the college of business and public policy, education, engineering, health, and more. Online, UAA offers 9 degree programs that range from an associate of nursing to an M.Ed in early childhood special education.

3. University of Alaska Southeast

Online Programs: 25
Type: Public

The University of Alaska Southeast is a public institution located in Juneau, Alaska on the Gastineau Channel in the Alaskan panhandle. UAS is an extension of the University of Alaska system. In addition to the Juneau Campus there are two satellite campuses located in Ketchikan and Sitka as well as their online campus. This public institution currently enrolls 3,458 students who benefit from small classrooms, and a community feel. Recently, UAS has been listed as one the most LGBTQ-friendly campuses according to SR Education Group. This is partially due to UAS' commitment to Safe Zone practices. The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities accredits UAS to offer degree programs that range from an associate to master's degree. There are four degree offering schools and colleges: The School of Arts and Sciences, School of Career Education, School of Education, and the School of Management. The school of career education is distinct from the school of education in that it prepares students for technical and other career-ready degrees like health information management, law enforcement, tech prep, diesel technology and much more. Online, UAS provides individuals with 25 degree option that range also from an associate to master's level programming. Student may select from some truly unique programs like the A.A. in fisheries technology, or the reading specialist M.Ed.

4. Alaska Pacific University

Online Programs: 3
Type: Private

Alaska Pacific University is a private liberal arts university located in Anchorage, Alaska. Anchorage is the most populous city in the state in south Alaska. As a member of the Eco League, Alaska Pacific University is known for its quality programming in environmental studies and psychology. This six-college consortium that spans the United States provides a learning experience in every major biome in the United States. There are just 517 student enrolled at this small university and the student-to-faculty ratio is 8:1. According to U.S. News APU ranks as the 52nd best school in the region. The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, a regional accrediting body (the highest form of accredidation) entitles APU to offer degree programs for undergraduate and graduates. Though a small university, APU offers a tremendous amount of academic diversity for bachelor-seeking and master's degree-seeking students alike. Offerings include programs like creative and professional writing, liberal studies, psychology, sustainability studies, environmental science, psychology, health administration and more. In addition to phenomenal academic programs, APU is known for its winter sports and is home to the APU Nordi Ski Center which continues to develop some of the world best skiers including world champions and Olympic athletes. Online, APU offers 3 bachelor's degree programs.

5. Charter College at Anchorage and Wasilla

Online Programs: 8
Type: Private

Charter College is a private for-profit university that offers hybrid and online degree programs and is located in Anchorage and Wasilla, Alaska. Wasilla is part of the Anchorage metropolitan area. These Charter Colleges operate independently and use a blended-learning approach. Blended learning means that students can learn both in the classroom and online to assist in flexibility and help non-traditional learners. Programs of focus include medical assistant, dental assisting, pharmacy technician, veterinary assisting, welding, and HVAC/R. Programs are fully accredited through the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools. Charter College is authorized through the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education to offer associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees as well as certificates. These vocational programs are efficient, affordable and addressing the needs of many professionals across the state and futher across the nation. Online, Charter College offers 8 degree programs that range from an associate in computer networking systems to a master's in business administration.

Monitoring the accreditation of a university you are interested in attending is incredibly important. Accreditation ensures your credits can transfer that you can receive Federal financial aid, and most importantly that certain standards of educational quality are during your schooling. The highest accreditation standard for most programs in the United States is provided by regional accreditation agencies. The regional accrediting agency for Alaska is the Northwest Accreditation Commission, one of six regional accrediting agencies responsible for accrediting schools in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.

Making sure that a University you're hoping to attend is regionally accredited — or accredited by a real and respected accrediting agency — is one of the most important choices you can make in ensuring the quality of your education.

Three Steps for Securing Financial Aid

  • Submit your FAFSA.
  • Check to see if additional forms are needed at your university of choice.
  • Search and apply for private scholarships.

Through the previous three steps most students find themselves offered some sort of federal grant, work study, private grant, scholarship, or stipend.

Great Alaska Higher Education Resources

Alaska Department of Education includes resources for students, parents, and teachers and the latest in education policies, preparing for college, and more.

This list includes the universities in Alaska offering 2-year degree programs, their locations as well as a list of technical colleges.

Click here for further assistance in finding your degree, college counseling, funding your degree and more.

Alaska Teacher Placement assists individuals who are looking to become certified teachers in the state of Alaska. Here you'll find a live forum, job fairs, a break down of school districts, and of course the path to certification.

The Anchorage School Business Partnership (SBP) provides on-the-job training, mentorships, experiential learning, and internships for Alaskan students.

Check out WUE participating states to see if you qualify for lower tuition rates in the state of Alaska.

Click here for a list of community scholarships that serve a variety of individuals some based on merit, both academic and athletic as well as other niche scholarships.

Click here for an exhaustive list of scholarships available for the Native Alaskan community.

The University of Alaska Foundation provides detailed information regarding scholarship applications, grants and awards for the University of Alaska.

Access the University of Alaska Fairbanks Scholarships.

Check out these undergraduate scholarship opportunities available for Alaska Pacific University.

The Bureau of Indian Education provides quality education opportunities for a diverse range of Indian tribes and Alaskan Native Villages. Check here for more information on scholarships and grants.

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