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Western Governors University Receives $4.9 Million Grant to Help Close Educational Gaps for Underserved Populations

Aug 18, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY- Western Governors University (WGU) and WGU Advancement—the university’s fundraising arm—announced today that the university will carry out five projects aimed at closing existing equity gaps in postsecondary education. The R&D for Growth & Equity grant provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is designed to help close the access and attainment gap for Black, Latinx and Indigenous learners across the country.

The grant allows WGU to better understand the unique journeys that Black, Latinx, and Indigenous learners experience through their interactions with faculty, curriculum, technology, processes, and systems while enrolled at WGU. The initiatives will also produce equity-centered research and development designed to benefit the field at a national scale.

"We're grateful to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for their support of WGU's commitment to identifying and dismantling equity barriers in higher education," said Annalisa Holcombe, President of WGU Advancement. "Their belief in our work not only allows WGU to overcome our own internal gaps, but also to share our learnings with other institutions so the entire post-secondary system can become more equitable."

WGU has outlined five distinct focus projects as part of the initiative:

  1. Identifying moments of impact during the student journey
  2. Understanding learner profiles for greater graduate success
  3. Increasing awareness of varying student engagement levels
  4. Identifying impact of Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund on students
  5. Researching friction areas throughout student lifecycle

“We know a student’s chances of success are greatly increased when there’s a comprehensive suite of support services in place,” said Marni Baker Stein, Provost and Chief Academic Officer at WGU. “From the day they enroll until the day they graduate, WGU students benefit from our personalized, one-on-one approach to support services. Thanks to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s generous grant, we can strengthen and enhance these programs to ensure students have the tools they need to be successful now and after graduation.”

About WGU Advancement 

WGU Advancement is a nonprofit fundraising foundation created by Western Governors University to expand access to and accelerate innovation in education. A 501(c)(3) organization, Advancement's focus is on complementing and enhancing the WGU vision to reinvigorate the promise of higher education. In addition to scholarships and other initiatives aimed at increasing access, Advancement raises funds to support development of innovative programs, research, and technologies that will improve educational quality and student outcomes. Learn more at

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