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May 5, 2021

Weathering the Pandemic: Gallup Finds WGU Alumni Doing Well Professionally, Financially

New research suggests student-centered, outcomes-focused approach leads to thriving careers; experts in education equity and workforce development to discuss results at May 11 virtual event

SALT LAKE CITY – In the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, undergraduate alumni of Western Governors University (WGU) continued to experience high levels of professional, financial, and personal thriving relative to bachelor’s degree holders nationwide, a report released today by Gallup shows.

“Renewing the Promise of Higher Education: WGU Alumni Outcomes Report 2021” compares the results of two surveys conducted by Gallup in fall-winter 2020-2021—the nationally representative Gallup Alumni Survey of bachelor’s degree holders who had graduated from 2015–2019, and a survey of WGU undergraduate alumni who had earned their degrees in the same time period. Key findings include:

  • WGU alumni were five times less likely than the national average to have permanently lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and two times less likely to have lost income.
  • 77% of WGU grads said their education was worth the cost, compared with 37% nationally.
  • On Gallup’s Life Evaluation Index—a measure of individuals’ rating of their current quality of life and their expectations for their lives five years from now—77% of WGU alumni were found to be thriving, vs. 56% nationally.
  • 79% of respondents from WGU reported being employed full time, compared with 58% of the national sample.

Read the full report here.

WGU specializes in serving worker-learners by combining the flexibility and accessibility of an online, competency-based model with a focus on workforce relevance and a student-centered community of care that personalizes support and prioritizes student success. For example, each student is assigned a Program Mentor at enrollment, a faculty member who provides support and instruction at the programmatic level from Day 1 through graduation. In Gallup’s research, WGU alumni strongly agreed that they had “a mentor who encouraged me to pursue my goals and dreams” at a rate more than double the national average.

“Talent is universal, but unfortunately, access to opportunity is not,” said WGU President Scott D. Pulsipher. “To renew higher education as the surest path to opportunity for everyone, it is incumbent on those of us who work in the field to dedicate ourselves to equitable access and strong outcomes for our students. During this post-pandemic recovery phase, our commitment to drive access to higher education is more important than ever.”

“This past year, the pandemic has dramatically changed how we think about and prioritize ‘wellbeing’ and has underscored how important it is that higher education institutions track their students’ and graduates’ wellbeing,” said Stephanie Marken, Executive Director for Education Research at Gallup. “That 77% of WGU graduates were thriving last year—a far higher rate than for college graduates nationally—was particularly impressive given the significant fluctuations Gallup detected in wellbeing nationally in 2020 and reminds us that there are services and supports schools can provide students and alumni to ensure resilience even in the most unique circumstances.” 

Marken will moderate a 55-minute virtual panel discussion, featuring Pulsipher along with District of Columbia Workforce Investment Council Executive Director Ahnna Smith and OneTen CEO Maurice Jones, on Tuesday, May 11, at 1 p.m. EDT. The panel will explore the report’s findings and consider ways postsecondary education can and must evolve to create pathways to thriving careers. Register for this free event here.

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