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Our History

Transforming Higher Education Is Our History and Our Future

WGU was born at a meeting of the Western Governors' Association as a solution to a growing need for a college-educated workforce—a need that was not being fully met by traditional higher education. These governors, along with early and enthusiastic leadership from academic and industry innovators, built the foundation that allowed WGU to become what it is today.

“WGU is about fundamental change in the way higher education is delivered. It's right, it's real, and it's efficient. It's what higher education will require to succeed in the future.”

—Michael O. Leavitt
Former U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services,
Former Governor of Utah

Education "Anywhere, Anytime"

Why are we called Western Governors University? Our name tells the story of our founding—a story that dates back to 1997, when a group of U.S. governors came up with an innovative answer to a question of growing concern: "How can we ensure more of our residents have greater access to a college education that fits their schedule?" That meeting of the Western Governors' Association marked the beginnings of a new national university.

From the beginning, we were designed to be different. The U.S. governors who founded WGU knew that the college student of the 21st century would be very different from students in the past. For millions of working adults, the dream of pursuing a college education could only become a reality once the boundaries of time and place could be removed. Overcoming this challenge was at the heart of the WGU idea.

“Universities measure the wrong thing. They measure time. They measure prestige. I wanted to base a degree on performance—and that was a real revolution.”

—Roy Romer
Former Governor of Colorado

It was the mid-1990s, and a new technology was quickly emerging—the internet. As more and more Americans were able to get online, the possibility of an “anywhere, anytime” education became a reality. And more than simply delivering traditional, lecture-based learning via modem and monitor, our founders recognized that technology could be used to fundamentally change the way college students learn. Harnessing the power of the internet and our innovative learning model—competency-based education—WGU revolutionized the way students learn, master concepts, and progress to a degree.

As a nonprofit, online university founded by governors, WGU is different. But even beyond the unique story of our founding and the foresight of our founders, WGU is different for a more fundamental reason—We do education differently.

Looking to the Future

Innovation never rests.

By definition, innovation is never “finished.” Our work pioneering a new way to learn in the 21st century has only just begun. We exist to ensure that the promise of higher education is made real for more individuals.

To do that, we take education beyond convention. We don’t believe in “good enough” or “the way we’ve always done things.”

We believe in being the world’s most student-centric university. Whatever it takes.