Prince William Sound College offers free tuition, housing for select programs

Prince William Sound College (PWSC) is offering free tuition and housing for students in the Natural Resource Technician and Marine Natural Resource Technician Occupational Endorsement Certificate programs. And there’s still time for interested learners to apply.

Dr. Amanda Glazier, professor of environmental science and biology at PWSC in Valdez, has been leading and developing the programs. She explained that the two Occupational Endorsement Certificate (OEC) programs were developed in response to needs and requests from the regional workforce and labor markets, including a need for summer technicians.

The natural resources program is offered over the fall semester and the marine natural resource program is offered only in the spring. Registration for the marine natural resource program has not yet opened. Both programs are completed in one semester.

Glazier said the timing of these programs is structured so that students can apply for natural resources management jobs at the end of their fall semester when the job postings for the summer positions start to open, and students enrolled in the marine natural resource program in the spring could be able to visit and interact with spring kelp and oyster farm harvests.

Graduates of these programs could take their skills to jobs with agencies like the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, and regional Alaska Native corporations and organizations.

While the OECs are stackable, Glazier said, a student doesn’t have to take both — but they can. Students can potentially stay at PWSC for an entire year for free housing and tuition. The OECs can build toward an associate’s degree, such as an Associate of Applied Science in Technology. Each of the OEC programs includes two courses that can fulfill general education requirements toward an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. 

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The opportunity is open to any student who wants to pursue entry level positions in the fields of marine and land natural resources. The funding comes from two separate grants for each program. Applicants must be 16 years old or older and can be from any educational background — students don’t need to apply with SAT or ACT scores.

Students will have to test into some of the classes — but Glazier emphasized that she doesn’t want testing to be a barrier to participation, and said faculty can work with students who need more support.

Glazier said that both programs are heavy on experimental and work-based learning. She also noted the courses are hands-on and field-work oriented, and that PWSC will bring in professionals from relevant fields. She said with this type of program she wanted as little time as possible for students sitting in lectures.

The estimated on-campus housing cost per semester for the 2022-2023 academic year was $3,042. Estimated tuition and fees per semester for 2022-2023 was $1,527 for students taking six credits, $3,098 for students taking 12 credits, and $3,845 for students taking 15 credits.

As the two OECs are both offering free tuition and housing from two different grant sources, students can take both OECs essentially for free. The spring program grant is from President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better funding, as part of the workforce development component.

The funding for the Natural Resources Technician program comes from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative-Education, and the Workforce Development program. The funding can support 10 students a year for four years.

These aren’t PWSC’s only grant-funded programs that make college credits more accessible to students. The college also boasts grant opportunities for Alaskan high school students, merit scholarships, scholarships for Eyak Tribal members, and Perkins grant funding. Their financial aid funding is available to most students pursuing any course going toward a degree.

Students still have time to enroll for the natural resources program over the fall semester, which runs from August 28 to December 16. Interested applicants can contact PWSC Student Services at 907-834-1600 or [email protected].

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