2020 has been a year of great change and adversity. As WGU Indiana ushered in its 10th anniversary this year as the first state affiliate of the online university, the onset of the novel coronavirus made clear the absolute necessity for quality online education. However, for Hoosiers across Indiana to pursue their education online, work remotely and simply take care of personal needs, they need access to high-speed internet—yet 666,000 people in Indiana live without access and 265,000 live in an area without a wired internet provider available.
Over the last decade, WGU Indiana has remained committed to bridging the gap between talent and opportunity by making a quality education more flexible and more affordable for non-traditional learners, including Hoosiers in underserved communities and working adults. While the spread of the novel coronavirus has been felt by all, it has not limited the resolve at WGU Indiana to increase access to education to underserved populations, including those who lack access to proper internet services. Here’s how WGU Indiana is combating the digital divide in Indiana:
Online Access Scholarship.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has laid bare a digital divide between those with internet connectability and those without, WGU Indiana is granting high-speed internet access and a refurbished laptop with a webcam to more than 5,400 students in the Hoosier state through the newly launched Online Access Scholarship program. The scholarship covers internet installation and monthly access costs for the duration a student is active and in good standing and is part of a broader WGU initiative that involves working with policy makers and private industries to shrink the digital divide in Indiana. More information on WGU’s Online Access Scholarship is available at www.wgu.edu/access and by calling 385-428-3125.
WGU Indiana Chancellor Alison Bell has long advocated for solutions to Indiana's digital divide and is urging communities and leaders to recognize that equal access to high-speed internet is essential in both rural and urban settings across our state. She is actively using her voice to communicate with community members, representatives and leaders who are taking action to find solutions. Education and the student experience is a deeply rooted passion within Chancellor Bell’s career and community service. Higher education institutions, including WGU Indiana, are limited in their ability to expand access to education to those who would benefit most if equitable internet access isn’t addressed, which is why Chancellor Bell has made addressing the digital divide a focus of her community activism.
Higher education institutions are limited in their ability to expand access to education to those who would benefit most if equitable internet access isn’t addressed. To undertake these personal, education, economic, and workforce development needs, there needs to be a baseline level of accessibility. Western Governors University is supporting legislators in states across the country to advance bills, like Governor Holcomb’s Next Level Connections program in Indiana, that address this crisis and vow to increase high-speed internet access and provide support to those without a connection.
Supporting access programs.
In addition to the legislative support that WGU Indiana gives to advance bills like Governor Holcomb’s Next Level Connections program, the university is also urging communities and leaders to to be more vocal about the need for equal access to broadband internet and support organizations like EveryoneOn, whose mission is to create social and economic opportunity by connecting low-income families to affordable internet service and computers, and delivering digital skills trainings. WGU shares their belief that the opportunity to connect communities with these tools is a way to create significant positive change in our society—both for individuals, families and Indiana’s future workforce.