SALT LAKE CITY — Western Governors University (WGU), www.wgu.edu, the only U.S. university offering competency-based degree programs at scale, has received recognition from the White House once again. In a report released by Vice President Joe Biden last week, WGU was praised for its use of competency-based education to help its students gain the skills employers need, outperforming national averages in time to graduation, and delivering superior post-graduation outcomes.
The report, “Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity,” was published in conjunction with the signing of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and includes a list of the most-effective postsecondary job-training programs, including WGU. According to the report, “WGU students experienced an average increase in income of $9,000 in the first one to three years after graduation, and an average increase of $18,600 within six years of graduation, significantly higher than the national average. With an average cost of $18,000 for a bachelor’s degree, the return on investment of a WGU degree is 2-3 years.”
The report notes that WGU’s model is designed for efficiency, saving students time and money by allowing them to move quickly through what they already know so they can focus on what they still need to learn. “Because competency-based learning allows students to advance as soon as they demonstrate mastery of course materials, the average time to complete a bachelor’s degree at WGU is 34 months, in comparison to 54 months for the average community college student.” The “Ready to Work” page of whitehouse.gov also lists WGU as an example of ready-to-work initiatives making a difference across America.
This recognition comes just as the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 3136, the Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act of 2014, which will allow colleges and universities to experiment with competency-based learning models. WGU, which has more than 47,000 students and 36,000 graduates in all 50 states, pioneered the use of competency-based learning and is playing a key role in helping other institutions develop competency-based programs.
Just one year ago, President Obama named WGU as an example of innovation and affordability. In June, WGU’s secondary teacher education program was ranked No. 1 in the nation, of 2,400 reviewed, by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). WGU was one of only 10 institutions nationwide named to the NCTQ’s top lists for both elementary and secondary teacher education.
Nonprofit WGU is self-sustaining on annual tuition of $6,000 per year. Tuition, which has not increased since 2008, is charged at a flat rate per six-month term; students may complete as many courses as they are able with no additional charge. The nonprofit university offers more than 50 bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in business, information technology, K-12 teacher education, and health professions, including nursing. For more information about WGU, go to www.wgu.edu.