Gov. Dunleavy signs bill giving big boost to Alaska college scholarship

JUNEAU — Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed a measure into law last week that boosted a college scholarship paid to high-performing Alaska graduates, and expanded the program’s eligibility qualifications.

House Bill 148 broadly passed the Legislature during the last legislative session. Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, was the only no vote among 60 legislators.

Rep. Andi Story, a Juneau Democrat, has introduced measures since 2020 to reform the Alaska Performance Scholarship. But previous efforts fell short. Story said she was “absolutely thrilled” to see HB 148 signed into law.

”It’s just a big win for Alaska. It’s a win for our businesses, university system, families and kids,” she said.

The measure, signed into law by the governor Friday, boosts each of the performance scholarship’s three award amounts by almost 50%. The top tier has now increased from $4,755 to $7,000 per year.

The merit-based scholarship hadn’t increased since the program was first established by the Legislature in 2011. Tuition at the University of Alaska has substantially risen over the same period — the current cost per year for in-state students is about $6,500, not including room and board.

“The governor is supportive of increasing educational opportunities for Alaskans,” a Dunleavy spokesperson said about the governor signing the measure into law. “HB 148 encompasses several programs that the Governor supports.”


Supporters argue that boosting the scholarship payments could help reverse a long outmigration trend among working-age Alaskans. According to data from the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, which manages the scholarship program, students who take the performance scholarship are more likely to stay and live in Alaska than those who don’t.

Soldotna Republican Rep. Justin Ruffridge, a co-chair of the House Education Committee, said the higher awards should see more Alaskans take advantage of the scholarship.

”More students receiving their postsecondary education in Alaska will help to meet our workforce development needs for many years to come,” he said in a prepared statement.

The scholarship is paid from the $406 million Higher Education Investment Fund, which is expected to be able to absorb the higher award amounts.

Recipients of the scholarship can use it at 24 institutions in Alaska, including at the University of Alaska, community colleges and technical training centers.

The performance scholarship increase comes after the University of Alaska’s Board of Regents voted in May to increase the UA Scholars Award from $12,000 to $15,000 — the first increase since 2016. The award is offered to the top 10% of Alaska high school students to then study at the University of Alaska or its community colleges.

Alaska students eligible for both programs will soon get up to $1,500 more per semester to study in the state.

Since the performance scholarship was first paid in 2012, over 33,000 Alaska students have collectively received $113 million from the program. But it has recently seen challenges.

Last year, the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education reported that a record number of eligible students were rejecting the scholarship and choosing to study Outside.

High schoolers received the scholarship after they graduated, but many had already made their college decisions before then. With the passage of HB 148, the scholarship will now be awarded after students’ junior year.

HB 148 contains several key changes to how the scholarship is managed. Students can now use their grade-point average to qualify for the program, or a standardized test score, instead of both. Career and technical education classes will also count for curriculum requirements.

The Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education is planning an outreach effort to inform Alaska high school students about the program’s changes, which go into effect immediately.

Story said that many Alaska students don’t realize they also need to apply for federal student aid to qualify. She noted that Alaska has the lowest rate nationally of students who successfully navigate the federal aid application process.

At the end of the legislative session, HB 148 was packaged together with several other education measures, including a $5.2 million increase to Head Start, a largely federally funded early education and child care program that serves over 3,000 low-income Alaskans. Dunleavy last week vetoed that increase to Head Start down to $2.6 million.

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Sean Maguire

Sean Maguire is a politics and general assignment reporter for the Anchorage Daily News based in Juneau. He previously reported from Juneau for Alaska's News Source. Contact him at