Two things make Alaska Alaska – natural resources, and natural preserves. On the one hand, Alaska is incredibly wealthy in gold, petroleum, natural gas, fishing, and forestry, all of which made that the US’s choice to buy the land (for 2 cents an acre!) from Russia in 1867 a surprising investment (gold and oil were not even known at the time). On the other hand, nearly two-thirds of Alaska is owned by the federal government as national park and refuge land, making it one of the world’s most important natural preserves. Research in Alaska is crucial to understanding sustainability, environmental science, and climate change.
That’s why Alaska’s colleges and universities, though few in number, are great in importance.
The University of Alaska Fairbanks, for instance, was founded when Alaska was just a new American Territory as an Agricultural Experiment Station, and it has continued as a land, sea, and space grant research university with research key to understanding and preserving Alaska’s precious resources. UA Anchorage, on the other hand, is the center of professional and technical study in the state, being at the heart of the state’s largest city (where nearly half of all residents live). These and other institutions work to preserve Alaska’s other great source of value and strength – its native cultures and traditions. Alaska’s institutions are crucial to community service and outreach, from its private colleges to the UA system, reaching out to the many isolated, rural towns, villages, and outposts where healthcare and economic opportunity are often hard to come by. And nearly all of Alaska’s colleges and universities keep tuition low, student support high, and financial aid generous, helping to keep Alaska’s best student in Alaska to forge the next generation of pioneers.