INDIANAPOLIS – In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has laid bare a digital divide between those with internet connectability and those without, Western Governors University has launched the Online Access Scholarship, which grants high-speed internet access and a refurbished laptop with a webcam to qualifying WGU Indiana students.
Currently, 666,000 people in Indiana live without access to high-speed internet and 265,000 live in an area without a wired internet provider available. The Online Access Scholarship, which covers internet installation and monthly access costs for the duration a student is active and in good standing, is part of a broader WGU initiative that involves working with policy makers and private industries to shrink the digital divide in Indiana.
“The onset of COVID-19 has resulted in an increase of social distancing measures and unemployment, ultimately pushing the need for more reliable internet access for our current and future students,” said Alison Bell, WGU Indiana Chancellor and Regional Vice President for Western Governors University. “The Online Access Scholarship program is one way the university is enabling these students to continue their studies from the safety of their homes. We’re aiming to remove these learning barriers completely.”
High-speed internet has become more than a luxury for households—it’s often a requirement for work, a necessity for furthering one’s education, and a basic need. Hoosiers who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 are seeking alternative career paths, but the loss of income hinders their ability to afford broadband internet to pursue a degree. WGU Indiana believes that talent is universal, but unfortunately the access to opportunity is not.
Nationwide, 44% of American households with income under $30,000 don’t have access to broadband services at home and 46% don’t have a traditional computer. The Online Access Scholarship meets this need by making it possible for individuals to improve their lives by earning a college degree online - and ultimately removing the added financial barrier. WGU Indiana has acknowledged that the digital divide learning gap is a huge problem for students and sees the scholarship program as being another step in bridging the learning gap for higher education.
More information on WGU’s Online Access Scholarship is available at www.wgu.edu/access and by calling 385-428-3125.