OPINION: UAA’s affordable, convenient programs prepare students for their next step

Through its community campuses and online program offerings, the University of Alaska Anchorage, or UAA, provides multiple entry points that meet learners where they are. UAA reaches far beyond the Municipality of Anchorage; we serve the communities of Southcentral Alaska through our campuses in Soldotna, Homer, Valdez, Kodiak, the Mat-Su and Anchorage, as well as thousands of students through our online programs and courses.

This type of arrangement, referred to as a dual-mission university, is somewhat unique among U.S. universities. At UAA, we provide numerous academic programs designed to meet specific workforce needs in Anchorage and across Alaska. Many of our programs use stacked credentials, allowing anyone to earn certificates, associate, bachelor’s or master’s degrees over time without losing credits.

Our communities have shown us they value this type of education and training. Enrollment at UAA is up roughly 5% from last fall, thanks in part to strong growth at many of our community campuses. This marks the fourth semester in a row that UAA has seen an increase in new student enrollment!

Whether as a high school student participating in one of our dual enrollment programs, a traditional student attending college after high school graduation, a military service member or dependent looking for flexible options for degree completion, or a working adult seeking education for career enhancement or personal growth, UAA’s campuses offer multiple pathways that are convenient, affordable and designed to prepare you for whatever comes next.

For example, our early childhood education programs are designed for maximum flexibility. Students earn an 18-credit occupational endorsement certificate, or OEC, in infant and toddler development, qualifying them for immediate employment in a variety of child care settings. This program is available online or in person and through a variety of dual enrollment partnerships. Students continuing the program take 42 more credits to earn the Associate of Applied Science, or A.A.S., in early childhood development, seamlessly transitioning into the bachelor of arts in early childhood education by taking an additional 60 credits. Students in the bachelor’s program choose from three tracks: licensed teacher for birth through third grade, a child life specialist track for those working in health care and community settings, or the early childhood education professional track for those working in public or private child care and family/child agency settings. Alaska’s need for child care employees and teachers is reaching a critical juncture. UAA is stepping up to help meet that need in a big way.

We are eager to work with employers, school districts, local governments and other organizations to fill similar needs wherever they exist. At all of UAA’s campuses, we are eager to partner with our communities to continue offering relevant, timely and affordable educational options and training that Alaskans and our state need.

Denise Runge is provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

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