Transition of APU to tribal college is lengthy process

Plans for Alaska Pacific University and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium to transition APU to a tribal college are progressing slowly, in a process likely to take three to five years, spokespersons for the partnership say.

Over the past eight weeks, representatives of APU and ANTHC have been working with faculty, staff and students at APU to learn more about APU’s needs and to take a look at the college’s current programs, said LeeAnn Garrick, chair of the APU board of trustees.

APU currently has about 500 students, of which 15 percent to 17 percent are Alaska Native/American Indians.  To become a tribal college eligible for federal funding the student body must be 51 percent Alaska Native/American Indian.

The partnership is working on prioritizing of programs, including behavior health studies, psychology, business, statistics, research and environmental sciences, and looking at the potential for distance learning development, she said.

The partnership hopes that with the growth of enrollment the cost of the courses offered will come down.

The most significant change at APU since the partnership was announced in December is that with replacements and additions the APU board of trustees has increased by four, bringing it to a total of 24 trustees.

The APU board of trustees announced on Dec. 19 that the partnership would allow APU to emerge as a dynamic educational institution with new and expanded programs.

APU’s new interim president, Bob Onders, said in an interview published online at the APU website,, that the first order of business would be to ensure that APU remains financially stable, and to look for opportunities for curriculum to expand.

Onders said it would take years to address some of the issues facing the college, but that if the college can create curriculum that serves the workforce of the Alaska tribal health system and has a very strong depth, the college will continue to grow.