The University of Alaska Anchorage introduces new scholarships aimed at helping students cope with pandemic financial hardships

Published: Apr. 25, 2021 at 4:31 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The pandemic has been rough on all students, but the financial burden has especially affected college students and enrollment numbers across the nation. That’s why the University of Alaska Anchorage is offering a few new scholarships to help get students in class for the first time, get more students back in class and of course help students stay in class.

“We know one of the biggest barriers, if not the most significant barrier to going to college is financial, and we see that over and over again, year after year,” said Lindsey Chadwell, interim associate vice chancellor for enrollment services. “It’s not just at UAA, it’s nationally, so providing opportunities for our students to come in the door and receive some financial assistance to ease that burden is going to be life-changing for many of them.”

Currently, about 26% of Alaskans have some college credits but no degree, according to Lora Volden, interim vice chancellor for student affairs. The 49th Finishers Scholarship is geared towards them. This scholarship is renewable and worth up to $8,000 in total assistance. Another opportunity, The Seawolf Start Scholarship, was created to help boost first-time freshman enrollment. Eligible students can receive $500 towards the cost of tuition.

“Especially for those students in high school, a lot of them when they saw COVID hit, they made the choice not to go to school and that’s already a challenge for our Alaska high school seniors,” said Volden. “We only have 41% of students who graduate from high school choose to go to college. Our biggest competitor has always been no college, and so when COVID hit, we saw those numbers plummet even more.”

Students are eligible for the Seawolf Start Scholarship if they apply for fall admission by May 1, and register for a minimum of three credit hours at UAA’s Anchorage campus. Students looking to take advantage of the 49th Finishers scholarship must apply for fall admission by June 15th. Both scholarships require the free application for Federal Student Aid FAFSA registration. Chadwell says UAA encourages FAFSA registration because students often miss out on additional funding that they did not have even realized was available to them.

“Additionally, we see a dramatic increase in yield, or the number of students that actually register for classes, among those who file for FAFSA and those who don’t. For example, for this coming semester, students who have filed their FAFSA are yielding, or registering for classes, at around 50% as compared to students who have not submitted their FAFSA, they’re yielding at about 30%,” said Chadwell. “So it makes a really big difference in terms of their trajectory and getting themselves actually registered in classes which is a really important step in their experience.”

In addition to the two scholarships aimed at increasing enrollment, there’s also an opportunity for residential students to get food assistance. UAA Student Affairs has allocated a portion of stimulus funding to help students with the cost of living. UAA will offer 500 $1000 discounts for a qualifying meal plan. This is offered for both the fall 2021 and the spring 2022 semesters.

“This is something we know our students will welcome because some of them are facing food insecurity issues, and we’re pleased to be able to help support them in this way and also get them back on campus,” said Chadwell. “Living on campus is a really great way to feel more connected with your campus community and develop relationships that can really impact the entire trajectory of your college experience.”

The university is also encouraging the use of new apps, like Seawolf Mentor and CircleIn, to help students stay connected to campus life virtually as the summer semester starts primarily online. UAA is looking to the fall for a potential return of in-person classes.

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