What We Know—and Don’t Know—About the Alaska Performance Scholarship

By Gretchen Becker, Research Analyst, Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education (ACPE)

ACPE Seeks School District Partners for APS Outcomes Analysis

Each year, over two thousand high school graduates become eligible for the Alaska Performance Scholarship (APS). APS rewards high-achieving Alaska students for enrolling and persisting in postsecondary education at qualifying Alaska institutions and helps students cover the cost of attending college or career training programs.

Beginning with the high school graduating Class of 2011, students earn eligibility for the scholarship in high school, become eligible upon graduating, and can use the scholarship within six years for up to four years of postsecondary study.

Students become eligible for different levels of scholarship award amount by meeting criteria in high school, including GPA, ACT or SAT scores, and curriculum requirements. Additional award eligibility levels are also offered for CTE-programs specifically, if students meet GPA and course requirements and score well on the WorkKeys workforce skills exam.

The Alaska legislature created APS, funded by the Alaska Higher Education Investment Fund (AHEIF), with the goals of encouraging students to succeed in high school, preparing them for college or workforce training programs, and incenting high-achieving students to stay in Alaska.

What We Know

Students believe that APS helped them achieve in high school. In a 2017 survey of APS-eligible students from the Classes of 2011-2017, 75% of respondents reported that the availability of APS made them more likely to achieve better grades in high school, and 69% reported that APS made them more likely to take the SAT, ACT, or WorkKeys exams. A majority also reported that the availability of APS made them more likely to prepare for those exams, seek out academic advising, take challenging courses, and consider career options during high school.

APS recipients succeed at the University of Alaska (UA). Out of the Class of 2017, 97% of APS recipients at UA did not need to take developmental coursework at the University of Alaska this fall, compared with 74% of non-recipients. APS recipients attempt and complete more credits per year than non-recipients at UA, and 92% of APS recipients from the Class of 2015 persisted into their second year at UA compared with 51% of non-recipients.

APS recipients graduate on-time with a credential at higher rates. According to enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse, APS recipients graduate with a credential on-time—within two years at two year institutions and within four years at four-year institutions—at higher rates (43%) than their eligible peers (12%) who did not receive the award but also attended an in-state postsecondary institution.

APS recipients have higher rates of Alaska residency in the long run. 80% of APS recipients from the high school Class of 2011 applied for the 2017 Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD, one indicator of Alaska residency) six years after graduating high school, compared with 69% of their peers.

Lastly, we know that students awarded the APS for multiple years of higher education earn over $16,000 more in annual wages after high school, on average, than ineligible students in the Alaska workforce.

For more information about APS and to read the 2018 APS Outcomes report, visit acpe.alaska.gov/reports.

What We Don’t Know

The 2018 APS Outcomes report describes that students who meet the academic eligibility requirements for APS have higher rates of success in college and the workforce and that students who receive an award stay in Alaska at higher rates. However, this story about APS does not answer a key question education stakeholders have about the program, namely, whether high-achieving students would have the same amount of success without the help of the scholarship aid.

No systematic impact evaluation has been done about APS eligibility requirements in high school and their causal effect, if there is one, on student outcomes of interest such as students’ persistence in higher education or graduation with a credential. However, ACPE is asking for interested districts to partner on this important work within the next year.

If your district would like to be a part of this research on your graduates’ long-term outcomes, please contact me for more information at gretchen.becker@nullalaska.gov by June 25.

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The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Association of Alaska School Boards. AASB welcomes diverse perspectives and civil discourse. To submit a Guest Column for consideration, see our Guest Column Guidelines and email your 400-1000 word submission HERE.