UAF sign

The sign at the main entrance to the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus is seen Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, in Fairbanks. Caitlin Miller/News-Miner

The University of Alaska anticipates a return to classroom learning this fall, with applications up at UA Fairbanks for both undergraduate and graduate students.

The return to classroom instruction follows campus-wide shutdowns at UA in spring 2020, as most learning shifted to remote instruction because of Covid-19. Most students returned home, with campus gatherings put on hold.

“When we come back in the fall, we will be in a new normal,” UA President Pat Pitney said in an interview with the News-Miner. “We want to be safe, but we also want to emphasize and return to our vibrant learning environment.”

At UAF, applications are up 5% for first-time freshmen, 8% for undergraduates and more than 25% for graduates over 2020, mirroring an early trend across the university system. The numbers, updated weekly, are through May 31.

In addition to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, UA has universities in Anchorage and Juneau, as well as community colleges and satellite campuses across the state.


Renewed confidence in the university

Pitney attributes the increase in applications to renewed confidence by parents, students and stakeholders.

“I think there is confidence in the university that the [academic] programs and the institution they know and choose to attend will be there for them,” said Pitney, after repeated state funding cuts and the Covid pandemic.

Pitney, who is serving as interim president, has prioritized restoring a sense of certainty to UA and its future.


Re-opening campus settings 

Her immediate goal is to bring back in-person, classroom learning. 

The number of remote, online courses will be higher in 2021-22, but the focus is on re-opening campus settings. 

For fall 2021, UA is preparing for in-person learning for most classes, with health-safety protocols in place at all campus facilities, including classrooms, dormitories, libraries and cafeterias.

UA is encouraging students, staff and faculty to get vaccinated.

“The new normal is being safety aware and safety responsive,” Pitney said. “The biggest thing is getting vaccinated. That is the biggest safety protocol around.”

Wearing a face covering on university property will be optional for individuals who are fully vaccinated.

Individuals who are not fully vaccinated will be required to wear masks while on university property. 

Masks are not required in private, on-campus residential areas.

UAF Chancellor Dan White said in an open letter posted to the university website that UAF will pay close attention to room spacing, as well as making sure cleaning supplies are readily available and health-safety expectations are clearly communicated.

The policies align with guidance and recommendations from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Contact political reporter Linda F. Hersey at 459-7575 or follow her at