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Affordability and quality at Alaska’s only private baccalaureate liberal arts university

Only 22% of Americans agree that “college costs in general are such that most people are able to afford to pay for a college education.” (Pew Research Center)

APU provides Alaskans with a quality, private liberal arts educational experience for an average net price of $15,000 per year (that’s the same price Alaskans pay for the WUE discounted rate at the flagship public university in Washington). If the student qualities for the Governor’s Promise Scholarship award, they could pay as little as $11,000/year.

And APU is 2763 miles closer to home.

If the Alaska student enters APU as a high school senior through our Early Honors program (link) they can complete their college degree in three years.

In addition, the educational experience at APU is qualitatively different e.g., public universities nationwide are being forced to increase classes sizes as they struggle with the largest disinvestment in public higher education in the nation’s history. For example,

Compare…. introductory biology at a large west coast public flagship university (700 students: 1 faculty; more students in this one class that the entire student body of APU)

Alaska inlet


With introductory biology at APU (average APU class size is 10:1 student-faculty ratio)


Surveys of employers tell us that the areas they feel colleges need to focus on most include: written and oral communication (89%), critical thinking and analytical reasoning (81%), the application of knowledge and skills in real-world settings (79%), complex problem-solving and analysis (75%), ethical decision-making (75%), teamwork skills (71%), innovation and creativity (70%), and concepts and developments in science and technology (70%). (AACU)

These are precisely the areas wherein APU excels.

Thomas Cronin, in a recent J. Thomas Wren edited text Leadership and the Liberal Arts, defined liberal arts as the “liberating arts-freeing us from prejudice, dogmatism, and parochialism, from complacency, sentimentality, and hypocrisy, from sloppy reasoning and careless writing.”

Freedom from isms and sloppiness is a compelling way to define the liberal arts, especially in the throes of a national presidential campaign. Paradoxically, at APU we have the freedom to define liberal arts in ways that excite the passions, clash, connect, and grow neurons (deep learning), and to do so in the context of the magnificent Alaska setting that is our classroom. We have the freedom to experiment with the best practices in teaching and learning-student engagement in active learning communities, personalized instruction, rich student/faculty interactions in small classrooms, high levels of academic challenge, honoring multiple intelligences, and real world, relevant, applied research in field-based settings. We have the freedom to teach students who will make a difference in their worlds.

The development of APU’s pre-medicine tract this fall is a strong affirmation of our belief that a liberal arts curriculum is the most effective form of education for future professionals whether it is in medicine, law, education, business, marine biology, etc.

Nannerl O. Keohane, in a keynote address to the Council of Independent College presidents, notes a “surge of interest” in liberal education in “many other countries” citing a major address in London by Yale’s Richard Levin wherein he observes that “Asian leaders are increasingly attracted to the American model of undergraduate curriculum….specifically because of the two years of breadth and depth in different disciplines provided before a student chooses an area of concentration or embarks on professional training.


  1. I just read your blog post about affordable tuition. I agree that the small class sizes are great and all of that. What I don’t agree with is that tuition is affordable. As someone who did not come in as a high school student, but as someone finishing their degree as an adult, I find the tuition extremely high. For an elective I had to take a ceramics class with a woman who was a sculptor or artist of some sort. I paid $1300 or so for this class where I essentially learned nothing. It isn’t hard to say to a class, “This is clay. We are going to make it into things.” Can’t say I got my $1300 out of that class. Or how about the online class I took, an ONLINE class, where I had to pay extra money for a camping trip at the end. A camping trip that took me 7 hours outside of Anchorage to sit in a yurt with people I didn’t know and do something that could have easily been accomplished in a classroom. The point is/was, the class was ONLINE, there should have been no requirement to ever meet in person.
    I don’t know how often you sit in classes or review the teaching standards of the instructors, but it’s worth a look.

    • presidentdonbantz says:

      Thank you for the feedback. Improvement can only happen when we hear from all perspectives; and excellence only happens when we know what we are doing well and where we are falling short. Sometimes at a smaller university the range of elective options are constrained. This can be disappointing for students, particularly when their other course requirements or life needs further limit their available times. Your post is a reminder to us to be as creative and flexible as possible with our elective opportunities.

      APU’s approach to learning is active. This means we try very hard to have experiential and/or applied experiences for all of our students wherever or however they take our classes. We are responsible for effectively communicating how this applies to specific courses and ensuring that experiential components of a course do not create a disadvantage to a student who truly cannot participate in a face to face activity.

      Students review faulty and courses every term. We take this feedback seriously and use it to improve classes and instruction. Furthermore, faculty are observed by their peers in the classroom as part of all contract renewals for both professional development and our commitment to constant improvement.

      I invite you to contact me or the Tracy Stewart, Academic Dean ( to continue the dialog and better meet the needs of all of our students. We look forward to our own opportunity to learn and ensure program expectations are consistently applied.

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