More than a dozen local students received the University of Alaska’s UA Scholars award Thursday night, at a ceremony held at the University of Alaska Southeast.
Thirty-four local high school students received the award and its accompanying scholarship money, though only 18 were present for the event.
“This year we have 933 designated UA Scholars,” Lael Oldmixon, executive director of the UA Scholars program, told an audience of more than 50 gathered in the Egan Lecture Hall. “The reality is you are Alaska’s future. We want you to stay, and come and live in our residence halls, have late night study sessions in the library.”
The UA Scholars program awards $12,000 to each student to be used at any of the UA campuses. Awards are given to students chosen from the top 10% at their high schools.
The scholarship program was the brainchild of former UA President Mark Hamilton, Oldmixon said, who founded the program in 1999. The idea was to keep Alaska’s best and brightest in the state, not just in university, but beyond as well.
“We were losing our top talent. It was the brain drain, students were going outside and not coming back to Alaska,” Oldmixon said.
Oldmixon told the crowd that in the first years of the program, fewer than 100 students took advantage of the scholarship, less than 10% of those who qualified. This year, however, 42% of students who received the award chose to attend UA.
“I’m really excited. I’m definitely considering going to (the University of Alaska Fairbanks),” said Sierra Lloyd, 17, who currently attends Juneau Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. Lloyd said she had looked at universities out of state, but this scholarship made her take a closer look at UA. She said she had spoken to UAF representatives and wants to study biochemistry.
“This is a really awesome opportunity for me,” she said.
Another recipient, also from JDHS, said he still wasn’t quite sure where he wanted to go to college, but the scholarship was affecting his decision making.
“I’m pretty proud, did a fair bit of work so … yeah,” said Alex Eagan, 17. Eagan said he wanted to study some kind of science or engineering. “Potentially the scholarship makes a big difference,” he said.
The money comes from the university’s Land Grant Trust, an investment fund made with revenue from the university system’s land sales and leases.
The money is not appropriated by the Alaska Legislature, Oldmixon told the Empire in an interview, so it was not subject to “the sweep,” the obscure accounting measure which became a point of contention during the Legislature’s special session this summer. The sweep is where state accounts are emptied at the end of each fiscal year and typically automatically restored by a vote of the Legislature, but this year legislators were not initially able to agree on the conditions of that vote.
The sweep did threaten the Alaska Performance Scholarship, another scholarship meant to help Alaskan high school students attend university in the state. The Legislature did eventually vote to restore the funds, but a few lawmakers still voted against the bill because it did not allocate a $3,000 Permanent Fund Dividend.
Oldmixon said that some students were confused about which programs were threatened over the summer, and became concerned that their scholarships would disappear. While the UA Scholars program was not threatened by the sweep, Oldmixon said that many of the students who receive the UA Scholars Award also receive the Alaska Performance Scholarship.
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.