A local program which allows high school students to earn college credits will expand next year but some students have mixed feelings about the changes.
North Star College is a joint program between Fairbanks North Star Borough School District and the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Up to 90 juniors and 90 seniors will now be admitted, and students will be enrolled only at UAF, not their home schools. This means that graduating seniors will not be allowed to walk with their former classmates.
“It would be really disappointing if I couldn’t [walk],” current student Olav Mollar said. Another student, Adreanna Nash, shared that “one of the reasons I said yes to North Star was because I’d still be able to walk with West [Valley], so I don’t love that idea.”
For the past three years, the program has admitted 40 high school seniors, chosen by lottery, to take UAF classes free of charge. It allows students to get a taste of college and learn how to manage work and time on their own.
“I think 180 students is a lot and I don’t really understand how they’ll do that,” said Nash. “It might just feel like high school on a university campus. I really liked the fact that it felt like I was actually going to college.”
All North Star students are currently required to take classes together, and with even more high school students, Nash is worried that the experience won’t be the same.
“It’s nice to experience what a college environment is like ahead of time,” Mollar said. “Seeing how professors run classes and stuff has been helpful and I think I’m more prepared for college than I would have been.”
Another big change is that juniors will also be allowed to join the program.
“I don’t know if I would recommend it to juniors. Again, it’s a wonderful opportunity for free college, but you really have to stay on top of everything, especially if you’re taking an online class,” Nash said. “So it’s really just about whether or not you know yourself and knowing whether or not you can handle knowing that you need to rely on yourself for your academics.”
Overall, Mollar and Nash said that they have enjoyed North Star. “It’s a really cool opportunity to explore what direction I might want to go in college, without having to pay,” the former said. Nash explained, “I really love North Star. I think it’s a great opportunity.”
Students next year will still be able to play sports for their home schools. Also, North Star welcomes students not currently enrolled in the school district to apply.
Current sophomores and juniors can apply for the program until February 17th. In person informational presentations will be held at North Pole High School on Jan. 17, West Valley High School on Jan. 19 and Lathrop High School on Jan. 24, all starting at 5:40 p.m. Ben Eielson Jr./Sr. High School will host a meeting at 5 p.m. on Jan. 25.
On Jan. 11, UAF will host a workshop in the engineering building at 5:30 p.m. There will also be two virtual presentations on Jan. 5 and Jan. 30, both at 5:30 p.m.