Community of Care and Disaster Relief
At WGU, supporting student success one by one is paramount. The WGU community of care proactively assists and supports students with many different challenges that pose a threat to their academic success, ranging from health struggles to financial concerns.
As a facet of this community of care, the Environmental Barriers (EVB) Program, developed from a pilot in 2017, proactively supports students facing barriers to their academic success due to natural disasters or other major events. Standardized in 2019, the EVB Program team collaborates across the WGU student support network to help minimize the environmental barriers to student success due to tornadoes, wildfires, hurricanes, floods, and other major events, including public safety events and pandemics.
Through the COVID-19 response task force, WGU distributed over $10 million in emergency aid to students experiencing financial and health hardships due to the pandemic. The university also added the Bright Futures scholarship to the existing scholarship portfolio, providing support to learners in need of higher education as part of their pandemic recovery plan.
The number of students supported
The number of major events responded to
The average retention rate for students affected by tragic events
We’re proud to serve WGU students one by one, proactively connecting with those affected by environmental barriers such as natural disasters and offering academic support. Each WGU student is assigned a mentor upon enrollment. Our EVB team leverages these existing relationships and provides mentors with the tools and processes to reach students, assess their situations, and assist them in overcoming unexpected obstacles to their academic progress.
WGU proactively tracks potential disasters and other environmental barriers and strives to connect with students facing roadblocks to their academic success.
Here’s how it works:
Proactive monitoring. The EVB event management team reviews weather events twice daily for potential impact to students living in the event area.
- Tracking. A severity and impact matrix is used to ensure appropriate outreach is provided for those events creating a significant barrier to student success. Some disasters, for instance, might result in loss of power and internet access or may result in a student’s temporary or permanent displacement from their home.
- Identification and outreach. Geo-mapping in the event area helps generate a list of students most likely impacted by the local event. A dual-vetting review process is used by the EVB team to ensure the severity and impact decisions are peer-reviewed prior to sending out EVB alerts and notifications, including outreach to potentially impacted students.
Multiple fires ravaged California in 2021 causing extensive damage to homes and businesses, leaving many homeless. WGU identified and assisted over 100 students affected, providing academic support and relief to those who faced distressing circumstances that posed a threat to their educational progress.
Devastating flooding in Middle Tennessee in late August, 2021 claimed 20 lives, leaving dozens trapped and injured, and many homeless. WGU reached out to affected students, sending cards and offering academic support and encouragement. For a student whose home was swept away, WGU provided financial assistance to help meet imminent needs.
At the end of August, 2021, Category-4 Hurricane Ida caused widespread destruction across Louisiana and much of the northeast, taking 95 lives. A staggering 908 WGU students were affected, with 154 facing evacuation or temporary home loss and 300 losing internet access. WGU provided these students replacement laptops and hotspot devices and distributed emergency aid funds to help meet basic needs.
Many WGU students receive scholarships and grants that make earning their degrees even more affordable. In 2020 alone, WGU awarded more than $20 million in scholarships to our students.
All WGU degree programs are approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs for education benefits under the GI Bill®. Options are available for veterans and active-duty service members, dependents, etc.
WGU is approved to offer qualifying students federal financial aid in the form of Pell Grants and student loans. You can fill out your FAFSA to see if you qualify for this federal aid.
Creating a Community of Care
We actively reach students, assess their situations, and assist them in the event of environmental barriers to their learning. View the webinar to learn more about our Environmental Barriers Program and how we maintain an active Community of Care for our individual students in an online environment.