ST. LOUIS – With the New Year approaching, many are eager to put the challenges they faced in 2020 behind them and make a fresh start in 2021. For those whose careers or livelihoods have been negatively impacted by COVID-19, this fresh start could mean resolving to pursue higher education so they can strengthen their skillsets and advance their careers in the year ahead. To help ease the financial burden for those motivated to go back to school to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree in 2021, WGU Missouri has announced it is offering $100,000 in grants to new students. The nonprofit, fully online university is also offering tips to those who may be experiencing a fully online schooling environment for the first time.
Each WGU Resiliency Grant is valued at up to $4,000 ($2,500 for the first six-month term and then $750 per term for two subsequent terms) and will be applied to WGU Missouri’s already-low tuition of about $3,500 per six-month term. The scholarship is open to new students enrolling in any of the university’s 60-plus undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the high-demand fields of IT, business, education and health professions, including nursing. The application can be found at https://www.wgu.edu/financial-aid-tuition/scholarships/general/resiliency-grant.html.
“Missourians are resilient, and all of us at WGU Missouri hope this grant offering will be a catalyst for those negatively impacted by COVID-19 to take back control of their future by furthering their education,” said Dr. Angie Besendorfer, Chancellor of WGU Missouri. “The start of a new year brings with it hopes for new opportunities and is a perfect time for those who have been putting off starting or going back to college to jump in and set goals that will lead to career advancement and enhance their overall lives.”
WGU Missouri is also offering tips to adults enrolling in a university early next year since it’s likely they will choose or encounter online programs or courses—an option that has quickly become the norm in higher education this past year. As a recognized a leader in providing high-quality, online education to working adults for more than 20 years, WGU offers the following advice to help those less familiar with online learning navigate their return to school:
- Research online options. If you are planning on going to school online or taking online courses, make sure you do your research and choose a school that has a long and highly rated history of offering quality online courses and/or programs to students. While most institutions began offering this as an option this past year, not all are experts in the area, which could impact the student experience.
- Identify your education and career goals. With the recent crisis causing stress on certain industries while simultaneously highlighting a demand for qualified workers in others, selecting the right field of study is more important than ever. Make sure the degree you select is in-demand, relates to your field and is relevant to employers. If you are unsure what path might be best for you, speak with current or potential employers to determine what they value in a degree program or skillset. Having a clear understanding of what specific degree or program you need to pursue will provide confidence when searching for and selecting a school that fits your needs.
- Look into how you will learn. Most universities offering online programs or courses feature classes led by a professor or instructor with a fixed schedule and syllabus. Students needing a flexible schedule or those who want to graduate quicker may want to consider a competency-based approach to learning, which will allow them to use prior workplace training, experiences and knowledge to move at their own pace and advance when mastery of subject matter is demonstrated.
- Find out what help and support the university offers. For many students, going to college online, without the interaction provided by an on-campus experience, can be a daunting prospect. Be sure to ask how you will interact with the faculty and what kind of support is available.
- See how connections with students will be made. Even when learning online, interacting with other students can enrich your experience and help you feel connected. In the wake of COVID, universities are developing a number of ways for students to connect through video conferencing, chat rooms, webinars and social media. Explore what the school is doing to engage and connect with students.
- Pay attention to tuition costs and financing options. Find out what tuition costs—including books and fees—before enrolling. Research financial aid that may be available. Depending on your income, you may be eligible for a government grant, particularly a Pell grant, to help pay for your education. Speak with a financial advisor about other means of assistance that can lower your costs, and don’t forget to inquire about scholarships. Many employers also offer tuition reimbursement or assistance. Being diligent in this process will provide a better understanding as to what school or program is right for you and your financial situation.
- Consider accreditation. To ensure your degree and any credits earned will be recognized by employers and other academic institutions, it’s important to verify a university’s accreditation before enrolling. The U.S. Department of Education publishes a list of nationally recognized accrediting agencies determined to be reliable authorities. It’s also good to request information on alumni placements, employer surveys, and graduate rankings to ensure you get the most out of your degree.
For more information about WGU Missouri and its programs or the resiliency grant, missouri.wgu.edu.