The month kicked off with the news that, as of Dec. 1, WGU’s enrollment had reached 30,000 students – a number that marks a 20 percent increase in just seven months.
But even before that number was announced, signs that WGU’s innovative learning model and quality are earning praise and acceptance were all over the national news. On Nov. 29, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gave WGU a shout-out in a speech urging higher-ed innovators to “think more creatively — and with much greater urgency” about tackling the rising costs of college education and reducing student debt.
The speech was covered by major outlets like CNN and the New York Times, which noted that Secretary Duncan complimented WGU’s competency-based model, saying that while options like WGU’s online degree programs are currently the exception, “I want them to be the norm.”
Then, on Dec. 5, WGU President Robert Mendenhall was among a dozen university presidents invited to the White House for a roundtable discussion with President Obama about college affordability.
“If we’re going to address the 37 million adults with some college and no degree, we can’t just tweak the existing model,” President Mendenhall said. “Mostly in higher education, technology is an add-on cost that doesn’t change the model at all. We need to fundamentally change the faculty role, and use technology to do the teaching.”
All big news, but what does it mean?
For students and alumni, these events validate the many reasons they came to WGU in the first place and demonstrate that a degree that measures learning rather than time will be respected and recognized by employers and other academic institutions.
“It means more people know what I'm talking about when I say ‘WGU!’” said student LaQueshia. And her fellow student Kindra agreed about the value of a university’s reputation and name recognition: “It means the value of my MBA will increase exponentially over time!”
Another student, Lucy, was excited about how growing enrollment numbers extend the benefits of WGU’s degree programs more widely. “It means that WGU is an awesome university providing opportunities to individuals who are unable to attend a brick and mortar university,” she said. “I feel so fortunate and grateful for the opportunity WGU has afforded me!”
Other students are hopeful that the attention WGU is receiving means innovative approaches to higher education are the wave of the future. Student John said, “From top to bottom, the entire WGU model will eventually be duplicated by more colleges to meet the growing demands of college students across the country.”
And one student, Alaina, celebrated the personal pride she takes in the news: “It is so much fun to belong to a school worth being proud of.”
What do you think of all the news? What does it mean to you, your community, your family, and the future of education?