by WGU Indiana Chancellor Allison Barber, PhD
Seven years ago this month, WGU Indiana began as the idea of our forward-thinking, education-minded state governor, Mitch Daniels. At a time when online higher education was unheard of in Indiana, he seized a progressive opportunity to bring Western Governors University to our state. WGU Indiana’s launch marked the beginning of a whole new era of educational and professional possibilities for Hoosiers.
As chancellor, I’ve had the privilege of seeing WGU Indiana’s history unfold, from its very beginnings. I’m thrilled with the momentum we’ve created over the past seven years and I’m passionate about WGU Indiana’s future.
The past seven years have been amazing, as we’ve seen student after student experience the joy of unleashing their potential and the satisfaction of completing a degree. We never tire of hearing their stories and we’re truly obsessed with their success. Stories that range from a master’s graduate who just received a major promotion to a single parent that, thanks to her degree, was able to get off of state assistance and provide for her family.
Our 4,700 graduates (and counting!) represent all ninety-two counties across our state. Through hard work and commitment, students have improved their lives and enhanced their careers by fulfilling their dream of college completion. According to a 2016 Harris Poll online survey, 88 percent of WGU grads are employed full time and their average income increased by over $19,000 within four years of graduation (compared with a national average of only $6,700).
Most of our students balance their education with the often challenging demands of work and family. Many face difficult circumstances that threaten the achievement of their goals. Each one of our graduates has demonstrated grit and determination to finish what they started.
At only $6,000 per year, word continues to spread (often by testimonials from our satisfied graduates) that WGU Indiana is one of the best and most cost-effective options for returning adults to complete a college degree. We’re pretty proud of the fact that we haven’t raised tuition over the past seven years because we care deeply about making college completion affordable.
Our enrollment consequently has grown from 250 students at launch to over 4,500 graduates. With over 750,000 adults in our state with some college experience but no college degree*, we know that there are many more Hoosiers who can benefit from our affordable, flexible, competency-based model of online education. We’re poised and ready to help them achieve their goals and, as far as we’re concerned, there is no limit.
Our dedicated WGU Indiana team has played an important role in our ongoing growth. More than 300 employees, including our gifted Program Mentors, Course Instructors, enrollment counselors, evaluators, and outreach team make online learning personal and meaningful for our students. They’re a big reason why 80 percent of WGU graduates believe that the university is passionate about their long-term success.
Together, we’re serving more than 5,000 WGU Indiana students who are currently enrolled in our four areas of study (business, healthcare, education, and information technology):
As our state’s needs have continued to evolve over the past seven years, WGU Indiana has worked with educational and government leaders, as a trusted higher education partner. Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb has said, “Indiana will only meet the demands of the complex 21st-century economy by empowering innovative organizations like WGU Indiana to connect Hoosiers to the education and training they need to succeed. I’m a big believer in the kind of access WGU provides to students as they prepare for new or advanced workforce opportunities.”
WGU Indiana recently sponsored the Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card research in conjunction with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, identifying the state’s most pressing workforce development challenges. We’re addressing several of those needs head-on by creating a pipeline of qualified WGU Indiana graduates to fill existing workforce gaps.
Employers respect and recruit WGU Indiana graduates, knowing that they bring talent and demonstrated competency to their professions. According to a recent Harris Poll, 99 percent of employers said that WGU graduates meet or exceed their expectations and 93 percent said that WGU graduates’ performance was excellent or very good. Through corporate partnerships with businesses and organizations across Indiana, we’re stretching corporate educational investment dollars by offering employees tuition discounts and a flexible option for working adults.
The online, competency-based adult education that WGU pioneered twenty years ago is evolving into a preferred model for the future. Ongoing technology advancements will open up new ways for us to make degree completion possible for even more Hoosiers.
We’re poised and ready to help meet our state’s very real workforce needs by equipping our students with exceptional skills and experience. We’ll continue to look for creative, innovative, and even more effective ways to make degree completion an attainable goal for more Hoosier adults. And we’ll continue to pursue the passion we’ve had since the very beginning; to make our students’ academic, personal, and professional success the central focus of everything we do.
*based on Lumina Foundation research