NASHVILLE — WGU Tennessee — a nonprofit, online university launched in 2013 as part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative — has grown to the third-largest private, nonprofit university in the state based on full-time enrollment. The announcement comes as the college prepares to celebrate five years of providing quality, affordable education primarily to working adults across the state.
“What impresses me the most about WGU Tennessee’s growth is the demographics of its students, many of whom wouldn’t be able to pursue degrees if not for the affordability and flexibility provided by WGU,” Haslam said. “More than 40 percent of its graduates are first-generation college completers, and the average student age is 37 — proof that the university is fulfilling its intended mission and helping us reach our Drive to 55 goal.”
The university’s innovative approach, known as competency-based learning, is key to its success and popularity — especially among working adults with busy schedules. The school measures competencies rather than time spent in a classroom, allowing students to move at a faster pace.
The state-endorsed university, which officially launched July 9, 2013, moved from the fifth-largest private, nonprofit university to the third-largest in the past two months, after surpassing 4,100 active students. Only Vanderbilt University and Belmont University have more full-time students.
WGU Tennessee has achieved several other milestones in its first five years, including:
- Conferring more than 3,000 degrees
- Employing more than 115 Tennesseans since launching
- Forming more than 50 partnerships with companies and institutions across the state, including partnerships with all 13 of Tennessee’s community colleges and Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs)
- Awarding more than $1.5 million in scholarship funding to Tennesseans
- Enrolling students in 92 of Tennessee’s 95 counties
“We’re just one piece of the larger higher-education puzzle in Tennessee; but as we look back at our accomplishments from the previous five years, we should be proud of the mission we’re fulfilling,” said WGU Tennessee Chancellor Dr. Kimberly Estep. “Our early success has been a result, in large part, of the support we’ve received from our partner organizations, Governor Haslam’s office, and our students and alumni. We can’t thank them enough.”
In addition to these accomplishments, Western Governors University, the national entity with which WGU Tennessee is associated, also established a Responsible Borrowing Initiative (RBI) in 2013, which has led to a 41 percent reduction in student debt for its students across the country.