President Obama Recognizes WGU for Innovation and Affordability, 8/22/13

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News Brief - 8/22/13

President Obama Recognizes Online Western Governors University for Innovation and Affordability

The United States’ first competency-based university cited as a leader in the President’s Plan to Make College More Affordable

SALT LAKE CITY — Today, President Obama launched a new plan for higher education, “The President’s Plan to Make College More Affordable: A Better Bargain for the Middle Class.” This new plan, which focuses on finding ways to encourage innovation to improve college affordability and learning outcomes, recognizes Western Governors University (WGU), www.wgu.edu, as one of the innovators implementing promising practices that “offer breakthroughs on cost, quality, or both.” WGU, the only U.S. university offering accredited competency-based degree programs at scale, was cited as an example of an institution that “Awards Credits Based on Learning, Not Seat Time,” and was called out for tuition of only $6,000 per year and average time to a bachelor’s degree of less than three years.

Now with approximately 40,000 students and more than 25,000 graduates nationwide, WGU was established in 1997 by a bipartisan group of U.S. governors. WGU pioneered competency-based education, which measures learning rather than time, providing new opportunities for the more than 37 million adult Americans with some college but no degree as well as working professionals who do have a degree but are looking to complete a master’s degree. Competency-based education allows students to earn their degrees by demonstrating their mastery of subject matter rather than spending time in class to accumulate credit hours. WGU students work through course materials online at their own pace with one-on-one faculty support, advancing as soon as they demonstrate subject-matter mastery. Competency-based education allows students to take advantage of prior learning and experience to move quickly through material they already know so they can focus on what they still need to learn. As a result, students may accelerate, saving both time and money.

WGU is self-sustaining on annual tuition of $6,000 per year. Tuition, which has not increased in the past five years and will remain steady in the coming year as well, is charged at a flat rate per six-month term; students may complete as many courses as they are able with no additional charges. The nonprofit, online university offers more than 50 bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in business, information technology, K-12 teacher education, and health professions, including nursing. WGU students are eligible for federal financial aid, and the university offers a number of scholarships for qualified students. For more information about WGU, go to www.wgu.edu.

“We applaud the President for his leadership in encouraging innovation and reducing regulatory barriers to make a quality college degree more affordable and accessible to middle-class Americans,” said WGU President Dr. Robert Mendenhall. “We look forward to continuing to work with the President and Congress on these important initiatives.”

FACT SHEET on the President’s Plan to Make College More Affordable