With UAA’s January 14 announcement that the School of Education programs had lost accreditation, the university has not had a lot to brag about of late. But there are some at the UAA that are pressing forward to field a better educational future for Alaskans.
Just two days after the announcement, the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP) kicked off its 24th year. The program, which is headed by Dr. Herb Schroeder, is a STEM-based program that provides continuous educational opportunities to students from sixth grade through college via a Middle School Academy, full-time Acceleration Academy and University Success components.
“Our objective is to transform education for the entire state,” says Dr. Schroeder. “What we have done at ANSEP is to reduce the cost of education and dramatically improved the quality. We want to provide the opportunity to every kid in the state so that they can come to our Acceleration Academy and earn up to two years of college credit before the even graduate high school.”
In what may be an unprecedented educational model, ANSEP enables qualified students to earn 50 college credits. It’s a model Dr. Schroeder believes can save the state millions of dollars in government funding by reducing the time it takes a student to earn a degree.
“Right now, 60 percent of kids who come to our university from schools around the state need to take remedial classes in math or English and only 5 percent of those students earn a degree or certificate,” explains Dr. Schroeder.
With an attrition rate of 95-percent, Dr. Schroeder estimates that each year Alaskan families are spending $25 million for their children to fail. He says that the state spends a similar amount getting students through high school, but Alaska isn’t seeing a return on investment. It is his belief that the academic and social preparation students receive through ANSEP has the potential to eliminate the remediation costs for failure when students reach college.
“When you boil it down, programs like ANSEP could be saving the state $50 million a year; that’s why you invest early,” Dr. Schroeder says. “Alaska is worst in the nation for K-12 education right now and ANSEP is poised to take us from worst to first.”
Dr. Schroeder’s sentiments are echoed by Dr. Bernard Harris Jr. As the Chief Executive Officer of the National Math and Science Initiative, Dr. Harris—a former NASA astronaut and the first African-American to complete a spacewalk—has worked closely with Dr. Schroeder over the years.
“As a dreamer, I often encourage young people that ‘nothing is impossible, if you believe in your dreams.’ For that to happen, we as educators and education advocates must provide students with the tools to empower their dreams. Ultimately, we all benefit through those accomplishments,” says Dr. Harris.
To date, ANSEP has served nearly 2,500 Alaska Native middle school and high school students from over 100 communities across the state.