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North Star College expands to more high school juniors and seniors at UAF

Usibelli Building at UAF.jpg
North Star College is expanding to take more high school students in the middle college on the UAF campus.

North Star College has been a small component at UAF since 2020, but is expanding this year to take on 125 high school students. It is a partnership between the university and the Fairbanks North Star Borough School district. Kristin Kelly is the counselor for North Star College with an office on campus.

“It’s a great jumpstart on college. It really gives them a chance, at a pretty low risk, to see if college is really for them. And it's free,” Kelly said.

Those who meet qualifications will be selected through a random lottery process. Applications for the lottery are now open to 90 sophomores and 90 juniors with at least a 2.5 GPA including students not currently enrolled in the district. The lottery will close at 3 pm on Friday, February 17, 2023.

Laurie Beam is the FNSBSD Director of Alternative Schools & Programs for the school district. She says it is effectively a stand-alone school on the UAF campus.

“North Star College is full-time, they can take all of their classes up at North Star College."

She says North Star College has its own space on the fourth floor of the Bunnell Building on campus.

"They have an area that is dedicated to North Star College students. That is a study area, they have a little kitchen in there, they have access to the school counselor full-time, and they have access to the UAF advisor who's over there full-time.”

Seniors who complete the program get their high school diplomas and a year or more of college credits at the same time. As the school counselor, Kelly says she monitors the progress of students, along with her UAF Advising counterpart, Misty Hopkins.

“Her side of things is looking at the classes they're going into, making sure they're the right classes in terms of UAF, where I'm looking to make sure that they all count for high school graduation,” Kelly said.

North Star College students can take up to15 tuition-free college credits each semester. Beam says they all take two classes together – a study skills class, and an American Government or Economics class, taught by a district school teacher.

“And the rest of their classes are out on campus with UAF professors,” Beam says.

Students will remain eligible for student activities and athletics at their home school, and they can take a class or two at their high school. Beam and Kelly say whether students will walk in graduation ceremonies is still being worked out.

Kelly says about 80 percent of the students in the North Star College program decide to continue at UAF. But some aren’t ready for the college load or environment.

“There’s been a handful that decided to go back to the regular school. They're kind of learning right now as seniors in high school that, hey, well maybe I'm not ready for this yet, or if I do wanna go, I'm gonna have to change things and develop study habits,” Kelly said.

Not to confuse the issue, but there is another a dual-enrollment program, in which all high school students can take up to two classes at UAF, but it is not the free, monitored North Star program where all the classes are on campus.

With the expansion for the next school year, the district is hiring a new director for North Star College.

A 45-minute online event next Thursday will explain how to apply to the program. Then there are three more in-person workshops and another online option later this month. On January 11 at 5:30 at the facility on campus, on Jan. 17 at North Pole High, on Jan. 19 at West Valley and on Jan. 24 at Lathrop and on Jan. 25 at Ben Eielson Jr/Sr High.

There is one more online event on Jan. 30.

Robyne began her career in public media news at KUAC, coiling cables in the TV studio and loading reel-to-reel tape machines for the radio station.