New award recognizes schools for providing a high-value, high-quality education SALT LAKE CITY — Online, nonprofit Western Governors University (WGU), www.wgu.edu, is one of 13 universities honored as an inaugural Best Value School Awardee by University Research & Review (UR&R), a national organization built to help prospective students find the right high-quality colleges and universities to fit their needs. According to UR&R’s founders, the new Best Value School Award is “not a ranking system” and is designed to recognize institutions that provide a great value for their students. Awardees are chosen by a selection committee made up of academicians and entrepreneurs, who consider nominees on a case-by-case basis rather than relying on a one-size-fits-all metrics system. “Every adult considering enrolling in an online degree program should take a close look at Western Governors University, one of the most unusual and innovative schools we’ve seen,” according to the Best Value School Award website. “Two things stand out, besides the very reasonable cost, and they are: competency-based learning and the overwhelmingly positive reviews this school receives from its students and graduates.” WGU’s more than 50 online, accredited degree programs are competency-based, an innovative approach to education that allows students to advance through their programs as soon as they’re able to demonstrate mastery of the material. Passing courses means proving competencies that are defined by academic and industry experts to reflect the latest needs of the marketplace. What matters is what a student has learned, not how they learned it. Competency-based education measures learning rather than time spent in class, so professionals with knowledge and skills from work and previous college experience can often move through their programs more quickly. And because WGU charges tuition at a flat rate per term regardless of how many courses are completed, saving time also means saving money. Another factor cited by the selection committee for recognizing WGU was its review of dozens of comments from current students and alumni, which the committee found to be overwhelmingly positive. WGU is a student-centric university, with student success as its No. 1 goal. The data back that up: The 2013 National Survey of Student Engagement found WGU’s students ranked the university higher than the national average on a number of key satisfaction indicators, including: Quality of interactions with faculty: 9% higher Academic support: 9% higher Challenging coursework: 14% higher Acquisition of job-related knowledge and skills: 9% higher Would attend the same institution again: 28% higher Rating of entire educational experience: 19% higher WGU regularly surveys its students and graduates to gauge satisfaction and drive continued improvement. In a survey conducted last year, 97% of WGU students expressed satisfaction with their experience, with 58% saying they were “very satisfied.” WGU offers more than 50 accredited bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in the high-demand fields of business, information technology, K–12 education, and healthcare, including nursing. For more information on the Best Value School Award and WGU’s recognition, visit www.bestvaluecolleges.org. For more information on Western Governors University, visit www.wgu.edu.