AUSTIN — Western Governors University (WGU) announced this week the distribution of $2.1 million in non-tuition emergency aid to more than 4,000 high-need students nationwide, including 663 students in the south region – which encompasses Tex., La., Ark., N.M., and Okla. who received a total of $332,000 in emergency aid funding in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
WGU is a nonprofit online university with more than 120,000 students enrolled, and 70 percent of its students come from one or more historically underserved populations: low-income earners, rural residents, students of color, and/or first-generation college students. Of the 4,000 students who received emergency aid, 41 percent are 1st generation; 48 percent reported income under $35,000; and 43 percent are students of color.
“The COVID pandemic magnified existing equity gaps in higher education – from the digital divide to challenges for minorities in the virtual labor market. It’s imperative now, more than ever, that we give our students the support they need to stay in school,” said Linda Battles, Regional Director, WGU South Region. “We distributed funds to 663 students in 161 counties in the region. For many recipients, the rapid deployment of emergency aid allowed them to cover basic needs, such as food, housing, and utility bills.”
As many institutions nationwide scramble to keep pace with the high volume of requests from students who are financially impacted by COVID-19, WGU utilized an innovative approach that distributed $2.1 million in non-tuition emergency aid to students across the country over just a few days.
In January, WGU Labs—the university’s research and development arm—established a partnership with Edquity—a startup that offers an emergency aid platform to college students—to research the impact of emergency aid on student outcomes. As the pandemic’s economic effects became clear, the scope of the partnership expanded quickly to provide enough capacity to process thousands of emergency aid requests per week.