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Alaska Colleges

Alaska Colleges


Alaska began its life as a U.S. possession when Secretary of State William Seward purchased the territory from Russia for $7.2 million.  The area is about one fifth the size of the Continental United States, but nonetheless the acquisition was widely ridiculed.  The first census taken in the state in 1880 reported 33,426 residents - all but 430 of whom were of aboriginal origin.  The 2004 census put the population at 655,435.


The state has very little agriculture and much of what it does have is generated in greenhouses.  It ranks last in that category among the fifty states.  What Alaskans do harvest in great quantity is seafood.  Alaskan crab, salmon, shrimp, halibut and cod are the principal commercial catches and the industry is a major contributor of employment in the state.  Much of the fishing industry is centered around Anchorage and along the southern coastal area near Juneau. 


Many young men from the western states in "the lower 48" will journey to Alaska for the summer and try to catch on as a crewmember on an Alaskan fishing trawler.  It is difficult, demanding and sometimes dangerous work but the right position on the right boat can net a young man $15,000 or more for a summer's work.  That's a lot for an eighteen year old kid.  There are also summer logging jobs to be had, but those require more skills than a trawler deck hand is required to demonstrate.


The state has massive stretches of federally owned parkland and wilderness; the ongoing debates over logging in those areas are a political perennial both in Washington D.C. and in Alaska's capital, Fairbanks.  Hunters, fishers and other summer tourists bring economic support north with them every summer.


In 1968 oil was discovered on the North Slope near Prudhoe Bay along Alaska's coast.  That led to the construction of the Alaska pipeline, built to carry the oil to the (ice free) port of Valdez.  The pipeline and the ongoing oil industry combined with other mineral extraction have dominated the Alaskan economy since the pipeline was approved.


Following the oil business, tourism is the second largest contributor to the state's economy.  But the biggest employer in the state is the government; be it federal, state, or local.  Alaska's proximity to Russia made it a strategic military location during the cold war years and its importance continues.  Federal construction of air bases and other permanent military installations led to the construction of a road network which didn't really exist until the government began developing its facilities.  With the advent of this transportation infrastructure the tourist industry began to flourish.


In Alaska, the weather variation among various areas is really one extreme compared to another, by most standards.  However the area along the Inside Passage, where Juneau and other trading towns grew up, has become a popular cruising area for tourist ships and is said to have comparatively calm winters - compared to other portions of the state.  It's a state where a rugged soul who loves the wilderness could probably find work and thrive - and perhaps spend those long winters taking online courses towards a degree.

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