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WGU Takes on College-Readiness Gap With Launch of WGU Academy

New entity will leverage WGU’s success in student support to prepare them for college studies

Apr 11, 2019

NASHVILLE – Western Governors University (WGU), parent university of WGU Tennessee, has launched WGU Academy, an independent operating unit established to help solve the growing college-readiness gap. WGU Academy courses and programs will provide aspiring students with an affordable, low-risk onramp that prepares them for college success either at WGU Tennessee or at other institutions.

As the characteristics of today’s college students have changed, so must the means of serving them. While nearly 70 percent of high school graduates enroll in college, 26 percent drop out in their first year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. And among the 20 million individuals enrolled, according to Higher Learning Advocates, more than 41 percent are over 25 years old, 55 percent are financially independent, and 26 percent are parents. Additionally, there are 80 million adults who need access to postsecondary credentials.

According to a statewide survey commissioned by WGU Tennessee, 51 percent of Tennesseans agreed that college readiness should be a top priority for Gov. Bill Lee’s administration. The survey also concluded that 62 percent of Tennesseans believe the state government should do more to ensure public school students are prepared for college-level work. More than 900,000 Tennesseans have some sort of college credit but no degree or certificate, according to the State of Tennessee.

“WGU Academy is another way we’re removing barriers for Tennesseans who are interested in pursuing higher education and might be underprepared for college-level work,” said Dr. Kimberly Estep, WGU Tennessee’s chancellor. “It also allows us to continue our mission to expand access to higher education to more Tennesseans, particularly in underserved rural counties, providing more opportunities for on-ramping to university education and creating a better-prepared and -trained workforce for employers across the state.”

WGU Academy will leverage WGU’s success in serving students, and provide personalized learning that improves individuals’ progress, persistence, and attainment in their college-level programs.

“Higher education remains the surest pathway to opportunity and social mobility; but for many, lack of adequate preparation puts a college degree out of reach,” said WGU President Scott Pulsipher. “At WGU, where the average student age is 36 and more than 70 percent of our students are part of at least one underserved population, we have learned how to create flexible, personalized learning experiences that lead to great outcomes. WGU Academy will provide courses and coaching that strengthen academic and noncognitive competencies to prepare these individuals for the learning demands of college.”

WGU Academy courses will be delivered in an online, competency-based format similar to the WGU learning model. Students will enroll in customized programs of two or more college-level courses that typically include a writing course and one or more courses in math, general education, or introductory-level classes focused on desired degree paths.

In addition to college-level courses, WGU Academy offers the Program for Academic and Career Advancement (PACA). Modeled on a nationally recognized social and emotional learning course used by WGU for several years, the course provides group sessions, peer interaction, and one-to-one coaching to build confidence.

While WGU Academy’s initial startup will focus on prospective students who are not yet ready for admission to WGU, the organization intends to seek partnerships with other institutions and organizations to scale its impact. The goal is to serve hundreds of thousands of students who need foundational college-readiness competencies and empower them with a greater chance for success upon enrollment—whether at WGU or at another college or university.

In the initial program aligned to WGU, students who attend WGU Academy will pay a monthly fee rather than committing to a full term of tuition. With an expected median completion time of three months, most students will complete their Academy program for less than $500. Initial enrollment in WGU Academy will begin May 1, 2019.

WGU Academy is led by Patrick G. Partridge, who serves as the organization’s president. Partridge joined WGU and led the university’s successful student outreach, enrollment, and admissions operations for more than 15 years.

“College readiness—or the lack of it—is one of the primary barriers to opportunity for many Americans, particularly those who are part of underserved or disadvantaged populations,” Partridge said. “It is estimated that U.S. colleges spend $7 billion a year on college-preparedness programs, with nearly half of incoming students at four-year public institutions enrolling in at least one college-readiness course. WGU Academy will provide an affordable—and scalable—solution by closing the gap in college readiness.”

About WGU Academy

With support from Western Governors University (WGU), WGU Academy operates as an independent unit established to help solve the growing college-readiness gap. Founded on expertise and historical knowledge from WGU, the Academy offers a more flexible, lower-cost approach than traditional college-preparedness programs. Its innovative college-readiness pathways are designed for students who need extra help to succeed at WGU or other colleges and universities. For more information, contact Pat Partridge, WGU Academy president, at

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