LINCOLN, Neb. – Today, Governor Pete Ricketts signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Western Governors University (WGU) to expand access to affordable, high-quality degree programs for Nebraskans.
The partnership with WGU supplements the learning opportunities available through Nebraska’s public colleges and universities. It is designed to target the estimated 306,000 Nebraskans who have some college credits but no bachelor’s degree. WGU provides Nebraska residents with a competency-based approach to learning that allows them to use their prior education, training, and experience to complete their degree quickly and cost-efficiently.
“At the State, we’re helping Nebraskans gain the skills and education needed to find great-paying jobs in growing industries,” said Gov. Ricketts. “Western Governors University is a trusted partner with a track record of success in adult education. Today’s agreement will create affordable learning opportunities to allow working Nebraskans to take the next step forward in their career.”
WGU was founded in 1997 by a group of 19 U.S. governors to address a growing need for an educated workforce. They saw advancement in technology as a way to expand access to higher education by making it possible for students to study and learn independent of time and place. Nebraska was among the states supporting the launch of WGU and pledged—along with fellow member states of the Western Governors’ Association—to create policies that support the goals of the university. Since then, WGU has grown to be the largest online, competency-based university in the United States. There are more than 750 WGU graduates in Nebraska. Nearly 70 percent of WGU students in Nebraska are from one or more historically underserved populations, including large numbers of rural residents, first-generation college students, and low-income Nebraskans.
“WGU was established to expand accessible, affordable postsecondary options for learners across the country, and as a founding state, Nebraska has been an important supporter since WGU’s earliest days,” said WGU President Scott Pulsipher. “This partnership will provide pathways to opportunity to thousands of Nebraskans who need postsecondary education and training to advance their careers and, in turn, their families, and we are grateful for the opportunity to work alongside Governor Ricketts to help propel workforce development within the state.”
According to the MOU, the State of Nebraska commits to supporting the partnership by enlisting relevant agencies to promote and collaborate with WGU, with a focus on targeting underserved populations such as dislocated workers, veterans, and rural residents. Additionally, WGU will work to collaborate with employers and employer organizations in Nebraska to meet workforce needs throughout the state. At today’s signing ceremony, WGU announced that it has finalized partnerships with Nebraska’s community colleges to allow those who have graduated with their associate degrees to seamlessly transfer their credits to any of the bachelor’s degree programs offered at WGU.
WGU specializes in serving adult learners. WGU students have an average age of 34 in Nebraska, with 85 percent of students employed while enrolled in degree programs. The university offers more than 60 workforce-aligned bachelor’s and master’s degree programs through its College of Information Technology, College of Business, Teachers College, and College of Health Professions.
To help provide aid to Nebraskans who complete their undergraduate or graduate degrees at WGU, the Nebraska Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education recently took an administrative action that qualifies Nebraskans attending WGU for need-based financial assistance offered by the State. This means that Nebraskans who choose to attend WGU are now eligible to apply for the Nebraska Opportunity Grant (NOG). The State of Nebraska provides the grant to students who meet certain residency, enrollment, and financial need qualifications. Additionally, in celebration of the WGU Nebraska affiliate, WGU has established the WGU-Nebraska Partnership Scholarship which will provide up to $200,000 in financial aid. The grants and scholarships will be applied to WGU’s already-low, flat-rate tuition, which is currently about $3,800 per six-month term for most programs. Students can learn more at wgu.edu/nebraskascholarship.
“WGU's competency-based online format has worked in favor of my success a great deal,” said Amanda Redler, a resident of Albion, Nebraska and current student in WGU’s elementary education program. “I saved so much time by not having to do things that I didn't need to. I proved I knew it, and I could move on. This is definitely a college that gets down to the nitty gritty. I feel as though I learned so much more from WGU than I would have anywhere else.”