Expanding access to higher education has long been a top priority at WGU Indiana. Millions of American workers face the urgent need to re-tool or upskill for a post-pandemic economy but struggle with barriers that keep them from pursuing their academic dreams, such as job loss, changes in childcare and schooling, health concerns, and overall uncertainty from the pandemic.
In an effort to remove barriers that might otherwise keep people—especially those from historically underserved populations—from accessing higher education, the university values four key points of access:
The national average cost to earn a degree is $91,000. However, WGU Indiana promotes affordability with the average cost of a degree being less than $17,000. What’s more, fewer WGU Indiana students are forced to seek student loans (57%) when compared to the national average (69%). Student debt is reduced by 41% over seven years. In addition to lower tuition and minimized student debt, WGU’s workforce aligned programs lead to salary gains. In fact, graduates average $20,300 in increased earnings, relative to $8,200 nationally over four years.
Since 2010, 82% of WGU Indiana’s student population worked full- or part-time while earning their degree. WGU recognizes the school-work-life balance that many students must navigate in order to earn a postsecondary credential. With an online, competency-based model for learning, students work through course material at their own speed to allow them to work their studies into their schedules. This flexible learning architecture and multidimensional delivery allows for more personalized learning, the ability to adapt to changing workforce needs, and more ways to provide relevant pathways for students.
The internet is a superhighway connecting business, education, healthcare, and more. Fully-online, WGU Indiana learners can approach their education anywhere with internet access. And, because students work through courses independently and at a pace they are able, faculty are free to work with students individually—providing 1:1 guidance, instruction and support. While online education increases accessibility, it’s important to understand the digital divide that still creates a barrier for many. Our current infrastructure stops tragically short of enabling all Americans to tap into their potential. 44% of American households nationwide with income under $30,000 don’t have access to reliable internet services at home and 46% don’t have a traditional computer. In response, WGU offers the Online Access Scholarship, which provides students who lack reliable broadband access with free high-speed internet service for the duration of their degree programs while also supplying them with refurbished laptops.
Competency-based education measures learning rather than seat-time. This model recognizes that students don’t come to college empty handed and instead takes into account a student’s robust portfolio of skills and knowledge based on work, life and previous academic experience. Because competency-based education is based on mastery, learning time is variable. This allows many students to reduce the time and cost of their education, connecting back to another key point of access available from WGU Indiana.
To continue to close the gap on the inequalities in education access, WGU launched its Equitable Access Initiative, which designated $6 million in funding toward three financial support mechanisms: the WGU Resiliency Grant, the WGU Opportunity Grant and the Online Access Scholarship. For more information, visit wgu.edu/access.