CEDAR CITY, Utah – Western Governors University (WGU) President Scott Pulsipher joined Governor Spencer Cox, Representative Lowry Snow (R-St. George), and other stakeholders today at a ceremonial bill signing in Cedar City to commemorate education-related legislation that passed in the 2021 General Session—including the creation of the Adult Learners Grant Program (HB 328), which provides financial support to adult Utahns who pursue postsecondary credentials and degrees through eligible online programs.
“I would like to recognize our friends from Western Governors University who are here with us,” Governor Cox said during today’s bill signing ceremony. “They worked really hard on HB 328, including a very generous donation of their own to help adult learners in our state, so thank you, WGU.”
HB 328 was sponsored by Rep. Snow and supported by WGU and other stakeholders and will provide eligible adult learners financial assistance beginning July 1. The state will sustain the program with an annual appropriation, beginning with $1 million this year, and estimates that more than 370,000 Utahns have some college but no degree—a critical segment that needs to upskill to advance in their careers and support Utah’s evolving workforce needs.
“To my knowledge, this is the first time we’ve addressed this critical segment of our state’s workforce that has a head start on a degree but needs help to get across the finish line,” said Rep. Snow. “As these residents continue to upskill and reskill they’re going to be able to upgrade their employment, and at the same time help provide skilled labor to high-need areas in our workforce.”
WGU—the nation’s largest nonprofit, online university with headquarters in Utah—has pledged $1 million in WGU scholarships to support the Adult Learners Grant Program. With an average student age of 34 in Utah, and with 75 percent of students employed—mostly full-time—WGU is uniquely equipped to support the state as it seeks to reskill and upskill adult learners.
“WGU was established to expand accessible, affordable postsecondary options for learners across the country, and as an institution headquartered in Utah, we’re especially grateful for the commitment to adult learners in our state by the legislature and governor,” said Pulsipher. “This grant program will provide pathways to opportunities for thousands of Utahns who need postsecondary education and training to advance their careers and will also be a catalyst for workforce development in Utah.”
As a precursor to Gov. Cox’s ceremonial bill signing, WGU hosted a virtual briefing to highlight new postsecondary initiatives designed to increase access and improve outcomes. Commissioner Dave Woolstenhulme (USHE), Nina Barnes, Vice Chair (USHE), Rep. Lowry Snow, and WGU student Israel Sanchez participated in the conversation, which was moderated by WGU’s Senior Vice President of Regional Operations, Gene Hayes. The group discussed positive higher education outcomes resulting from the pandemic, the importance of supporting adult learners and the challenges those students face, how online learning is alleviating some barriers for adults learners, and how the state is expanding financial assistance to more students, among other topics. The briefing is available for on-demand viewing at wgu.edu/briefing.
In addition to HB 328 Adult Learners Grant Program, Gov. Cox and other stakeholders today celebrated the passage of SB142 - Public Education Funding Amendments, HB381 - Grow Your Own Teacher and School Counselor Pipeline, HB0002 - Public Education Budget Amendments, and SB136 - Higher Education Scholarships Amendments.