Part of Western Governors University
Many barriers have come between our nation's learners and the high-quality, affordable education they need to create successful carriers. WGU exists to obliterate those barriers. Whether in urban Texas or rural Tennessee, WGU provides students with a pathway to opportunity at a low cost and flexible timeframe that allows individuals of all backgrounds to break the cycle of poverty and participate in the American dream.
Higher education can and should be affordable and accessible to all students. With the average increase in the annual cost of college outpacing the growth in family income or state investment, for far too many an “affordable higher education” has become more of a dream than a reality. The average cost of a college degree has more than doubled since 1988. Meanwhile, total student debt nationally has grown from $240 billion in 2003 to nearly $1.6 trillion today, with over 44 million Americans holding debt incurred as a student. WGU is committed to affordable higher education, reflected in a unique tuition structure that is thousands of dollars lower than the national average annual tuition for most colleges and universities, both public and private. The graph below details the average cost of college for WGU students** v.s. the rest of the country.
Data from the College Board (2019) and a 2019 WGU Institutional Research Graduate Survey
**Many students enter WGU with transferrable credits from other institutions
Even before COVID-19, it was evident today’s students needed educational opportunities aligned with workforce needs and employment opportunities. With unprecedented numbers of American workers filing for unemployment during the spring of 2020, shifting the landscape to one of earning and learning is imperative to get Americans back to work with the skills they need. Displaced workers need opportunities to upskill and reskill into good jobs in stable fields through online and distance learning.
New jobs arising during and after the pandemic require workers with validated skills. Now more than ever, the promise of higher education must lead to a real return on investment to better the lives of students and their families. The fundamental shifts in our economy must bring government, businesses, and education leaders, along with other relevant partners, to the table to devise solutions for the future of education and work.
The digital divide is the gap between those who have access to reliable high-speed internet and those who do not.
WGU supports state and local policy efforts to expand reliable broadband access to support education delivery to students. Reliable broadband allows students everywhere to access education and ongoing skill training at any time. The governors who founded WGU saw the power of the internet to transform education, particularly for rural communities. While the internet continues to be a tool for educational transformation, it is more than that: COVID-19 has shown that broadband is the backbone for all education, not to mention working, healthcare, and everyday interactions. While students will return to classrooms, education will forever be inextricably linked to broadband, and policymakers must commit to closing the stark gaps in access to broadband.
WGU is working with public and private partners across the country to identify the communities that need broadband access the most.
WGU is preparing to offer students in disadvantaged communities scholarships to provide immediate internet access while they pursue an education.
While WGU works with students one by one, we will also convene local and national groups of decision-makers to gather support for broadband infrastructure investments.
WGU will partner with policymakers and private organizations to build long term solutions to the digital divide. These strategic investments will ensure that our most disadvantaged communities continue to have access to high-quality education for years to come.