7 Top Stories of 2011

online university year in review

As another banner year for WGU comes to a close, we thought it would fun to pause and look back at 2011. It’s been a big year for the online university, and it’s been a big year for our student body and alumni.

For each of you, the biggest WGU-related happening this year was probably something personal. Maybe it was passing that particularly tough course after lots of hard work and persistence; it may have been an "aha!" moment that opened your eyes about a subject you were studying or helped you to see your job, your life, or your world in a new way. Maybe 2011 was the year you enrolled in WGU and jump-started your college education, or maybe it was the year you graduated and earned that college degree you’ve dreamed of for so long.

But what was the biggest news for the WGU community as a whole? We asked our Facebook fans, our Google+ circles, and our Twitter followers to reflect on the year that was and cast their votes for the most important, most exciting, most inspiring WGU news of 2011.

Here’s what they told us:

7. Summer Commencement Celebrates Record-Breaking Near-2,000 Graduates
Just 12 years after enrolling our first student, our 21st semi-annual commencement this summer in Salt Lake City celebrated WGU’s largest graduating class yet – 1,972 new WGU alumni. Lumina Foundation for Education President and CEO Jamie Merisotis delivered the keynote address and told graduates, "You are the 21st century."

6. Post-9/11 GI Bill® Expands Veterans’ Housing Stipend to Online Students
As of Oct. 1, U.S. military veterans attending online universities became eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill’s monthly housing stipend, adding to the value of attending online schools like WGU for veterans like retired Marine Mark Curtis of Chewelah, Washington.

5. WGU Indiana Triples Enrollment in First Six Months
In January, just six months after Governor Mitch Daniels launched WGU Indiana, calling it "Indiana’s eighth state university," WGU’s first state subsidiary university tripled its statewide enrollment, reaching 800 enrolled students.

4. WGU Washington and WGU Texas Launched
In April, the Washington State Legislature established WGU Washington, the second WGU state university. Then, in August, Texas Governor Rick Perry announced the creation of WGU Texas.

3. Enrollment Milestones: 25,000 Students in May, 30,000 in December
In May, nationwide enrollment at WGU reached 25,000 students, a 350 percent increase in five years. That same month, the cumulative total of WGU graduates hit 10,000. Then, just a little over a half-year later, the student body achieved another milestone – 30,000 students and counting.

2. President Obama Invites President Mendenhall to White House
WGU’s President Robert Mendenhall visited the White House in December, by invitation from President Obama, in a discussion of higher education innovation. “If we’re going to address the 37 million adults with some college and no degree, we can’t just tweak the existing model,” President Mendenhall told President Obama.

1. WGU Wins Two USDLA Awards for Excellence in Distance Learning
The biggest happening of the year, according to your votes, was news in May of WGU’s two United States Distance Learning Association awards for excellence in distance learning. WGU took home its second 21st Century Award for Best Practices in Distance Learning, and Dr. Phillip Schmidt, Associate Provost, was recognized for Outstanding Leadership by an Individual in the Field of Distance Learning.

What do you think? What would have topped your list? And what are your predictions for what will make WGU headlines in 2012?

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