Top 10 WGU News of 2015

Top WGU news stories of 2015As we close the calendar on another year, we wanted to take a look back at all the news stories that made 2015 such a banner year for WGU.

The biggest stories, of course, were each individual student’s successes, struggles, and victories. This year alone, 14,994 Night Owls—and counting—have earned their degrees, and you’d be hard-pressed to tell any of them that one of the stories below is bigger news than their accomplishment.

Still, there was a lot of big news for the university as a whole—for our whole student body, our alumni, prospective students, faculty, and staff—so we wanted to find out what stories topped the list this year.

More than 500 Night Owls completed our survey, by far the most responses we've received in the four years we've been conducting this year-end poll. Voters were asked to rate each news item on a 5-star scale, where 1 star means "not that significant," 3 stars mean "fairly significant," and 5 stars mean "extremely significant." The results below show the 10 biggest milestones and events of 2015. Which would you have placed at the top?

1. No Tuition Increase! — average rating: 4.89 stars
Once again, WGU announced this year that tuition will hold steady, and once again, you selected it as the biggest news of the year. Can't say that we blame you—it's great news!

2. "Best Value School" Again — average rating: 4.63 stars
University Research and Review, a nonprofit that recognizes high-value colleges and universities by reviewing them on a case-by-case basis rather than using a one-size-fits-all metrics system, named WGU one of only 13 "Best Value Schools" in 2015, the second year in a row they've recognized us for combining a high-quality education with a low cost of attendance. Our first time earning this recognition last year ranked 3rd on your year-end review, and this year it moves up a spot to #2.

3. USDLA Awards — average rating: 4.59 stars
The United States Distance Learning Association awarded WGU with our sixth 21st Century Award for Best Practices in Distance Learning, and WGU Chief Nursing Officer Dr. Jan Jones-Schenk was awarded for Outstanding Leadership by an Individual in the Field of Distance Learning this year.

4. Student Engagement and Support — average rating: 4.56 stars
The National Survey of Student Engagement polled students at more than 600 U.S. colleges and universities and found that, despite being online and independently driven, WGU provides a highly engaging, connected learning experience. WGU students rated their university well above average on traits like interactions with faculty, academic support, and challenging coursework.

5. 50,000 Graduates in 15 Years — average rating: 4.54 stars
In July of this year, WGU awarded its 50,000th degree, 15 years after Genevieve Kirch became WGU's very first graduate in 2000.

6. Grads with Great Jobs and Great Lives — average rating: 4.48 stars
The Gallup-Purdue Index measures graduates' level of thriving at work and in life, and results they released this year showed WGU alumni are doing great! Specifically, Night Owls who have graduated within the last five years are employed at a much higher rate than the national average, are more likely to be engaged employees, are almost twice as likely to feel an emotional connection to their alma mater (i.e., us), and are twice as likely to be thriving in all five elements of well-being.

7. "Best Value" Teachers College — average rating: 4.44 stars
The National Council on Teacher Quality, which named WGU's secondary teacher education program the best in the nation for quality in 2014 (#4 on last year's top news countdown), this year rated our Teachers College the #1 "Best Value" in teacher education nationwide.

8. Loan Default Prevention — average rating: 4.34 stars
Carrying a heavy student debt burden is a major problem facing too many American college graduates today, and loan default is a drag on our national economy as well as on individuals' and families' financial well-being. We're very proud that our pre-enrollment responsible borrowing counseling, our very affordable tuition and fees, and the high-paying jobs so many of our alumni find after graduation all add up to significantly lower loan default rates at WGU than the national average. This year, USA Funds awarded us a certificate of excellence for reducing our three-year default rate to 5.0%, a rate less than half the national average of 11.8%.

9. Nursing Center of Excellence — average rating: 4.22 stars
In July 2015, the National League for Nursing named WGU's nursing programs as a 2015 Center of Excellence!

10. Taking the Lead in a Changing Healthcare Industry — average rating: 4.11 stars
The healthcare industry is going through a big transformation in this country, the result of emerging technologies, an emphasis on better use of information and data, and changes in policy. WGU this year showed major leadership in helping improve our nation's healthcare by launching two new degree programs—bachelor's in Healthcare Management and a master's in Integrated Healthcare Management—and by hosting the new Accountable Care Learning Collaborative.

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