Multiple Alaska universities to return to in-person education this fall

Published: May. 25, 2021 at 4:05 PM AKDT|Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 3:58 PM AKDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The University of Alaska Anchorage will welcome students back to campus in person this fall, the school announced Tuesday.

The Anchorage campus will be open to all students, staff and faculty starting Aug. 2, according to a release from the university. Classes begin on Aug. 23.

“There has never been a better time to attend UAA than this fall,” said UAA Interim Chancellor Bruce Schultz in the release. “UAA anticipates receiving more than $10 million in federal coronavirus relief funding to award to registered students this coming academic year as scholarships and grants. The fall semester is an excellent time for students to return to school to enhance existing skills or retrain so they are qualified for the best jobs in our recovering economy.”

The university will begin having employees return to work on campus in late May and June in order to prepare for the start of school, the release states. UAA will not require those who are fully vaccinated to wear masks, according to the release.

“We are excited to serve students face-to-face again,” said Lora Volden, interim vice chancellor for student affairs, in the press release. “We also recognize new or improved virtual offerings have provided greater flexibility to students to meet with a financial aid counselor during their lunch hour or learn how to file their FAFSA during an evening workshop from the comfort of their home. This won’t stop once campus is fully operational because we know students will need or want flexibility in how they receive this support.”

Students will have the option of meeting with academic advisors and financial aid counselors either in-person or virtually.

The university will offer financial opportunities for students who want to live on campus, who will have the chance to receive scholarships for housing and meal plans.

“These discounts will reduce the overall cost of living on campus and help to combat hunger and food insecurity among the student population,” the release states.

With vaccines rolling out, Schultz said in an interview later this week that UAA deemed the infection rates of COVID-19 to be low enough for a safe return. So far, he said enrollment is looking good for the fall when compared to this time last year.

“We noticed that our incoming class in the fall of 2020, that the numbers were smaller than we had anticipated,” he said. “And what the students told us is that they were waiting. There was this level of uncertainty. We can see now when we’re looking at our registration numbers for the fall semester that our first time freshman numbers are up 20% for the fall semester compared to this time last year.”

Not all students will be comfortable returning to the classroom. Schultz said the school will still be offering a good number of distance learning online classes as staff move forward in a hybrid model.

“As we now look at the fall semester, we have a mix right now of some distance courses, and some in person courses,” he said. “We’re at about 50/50. We anticipate by the fall semester, we’d like to be at about 60% of our sections are going to be in person, 40% will be distanced. So I think that provides a good mix for students.”

University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Alaska Southeast and Alaska Pacific University also have plans to welcome students back to in-person learning on their campuses this year.

According to a Tuesday letter to faculty and staff from Chancellor Dan White, many of the facilities at UAF are already open to the public.

“For the fall semester, we are planning for full occupancy in our classrooms and residence halls along with a majority of in-person classes,” the letter states. “Should circumstances change, we will be responsive to ensure the health and safety of our students, faculty and campus community.”

Alaska Pacific University also plans to welcome students and staff back for in-person learning this fall.

“The return to our regular operations would not be possible without the commitment of our APU community or the help of our medical partners,” said APU Acting President Hilton Hallock in a press release from March. “... APU students enjoy small class sizes and strong relationships with professors. I believe that’s helped us provide a strong academic experience during this pandemic, but we are obviously eager to return to our regular diverse instructional settings.”

Online courses will still be available for APU students, the release states. On-campus housing will also be available. APU has been offering in-person classes this summer.

According to Michael Ciri, incident commander and vice chancellor for administrative services at UAS, that university kept holding classes on campus throughout the pandemic, though many of them were moved online.

“This fall, we expect most classes to be offered using the customary delivery – online for our distance degrees and on campus for the rest,” Ciri said in an emailed statement on Wednesday. “Students can see the wide range of on campus offerings by visiting the fall schedule on our website.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include information about University of Alaska Fairbanks, Alaska Pacific University and University of Alaska Southeast, as well as more information from UAA Interim Chancellor Bruce Shultz.

Copyright 2021 KTUU. All rights reserved.