SALT LAKE CITY – WGU Academy—a largely independent operating unit of Western Governors University that was established in 2018—today announced that it is now a separate 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. The Academy’s new status provides greater flexibility to pursue its mission of dramatically scaling college readiness solutions through service agreements and partnerships with other higher education institutions, K–12 schools, community groups, employers, and foundations.
WGU Academy began enrolling students in April 2019 and has already served over 10,000 individuals identified as needing additional preparation before enrolling full time into WGU. The Academy provides a low-risk and low-cost on-ramp to admission into WGU by providing transferable courses, but more importantly by developing students’ essential non-academic competencies: self-awareness and self-efficacy, a sense of belonging and growth mindset, and an increased capacity for ownership and accountability.
WGU Academy began pilot programs with other schools in 2019, and its new status allows the organization to more rapidly expand its ability to help students at community colleges and four-year institutions, in K–12 schools, through online summer bridge programs, and by helping employers develop the academic readiness of their employees—particularly frontline workers for whom postsecondary education is often perceived as out of reach.
“In addition to our ongoing work with WGU, our goal is to expand postsecondary access and equity for hundreds of thousands of students from underserved populations and to align with rapidly changing workforce needs,” said Pat Partridge, President of WGU Academy. “But access isn’t enough. We want to truly develop resilient learners, students who are equipped with the confidence, social and emotional skills, and mindset to reach their academic and career goals.”
Since launching in May, 2018, the Academy has conducted pilot initiatives with tnAchieves in support of the Tennessee Promise Program, with Weber County (Utah) in support of an intergenerational poverty program, and with two K–12 districts in North Carolina to support seniors as they prepare to transition to postsecondary programs. The Academy’s staff has grown to over 50 employees to serve its growing enrollment and in preparation for supporting other organizations in the coming year.
“Students are facing tremendous stresses in the current environment,” Partridge said. “Students today must deal with COVID-19, a recession, and other stressors—including personal challenges—and success in college is tenuous at best for a lot of them. WGU Academy can help many students overcome these non-academic barriers.”
Whereas most college readiness efforts focus on remedial preparation for math and language skills, WGU Academy goes beyond that to include transferable college-level courses. More importantly, all students take the course Program for Academic and Career Advancement (PACA) to develop the mental and emotional characteristics of a resilient learner. Modeled on a nationally recognized course used by WGU for several years, PACA uses self-serve modules, group sessions, peer interaction, and one-to-one coaching to build confidence and persistence.
“Unlike traditional advising, which serves important roles,” Partridge said, “the Academy’s coaches and the PACA curriculum create an integrated approach to help students understand themselves better and develop a powerful growth mindset. For many, it’s truly transformational.”