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A Good Life and a Better Education For All

May 31, 2023

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Amanda Redler is not a typical college student. She is a 36-year-old mother of three living in rural Albion, Nebraska, more than an hour’s drive from any brick-and-mortar college or university. And yet, Redler will graduate this spring with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.

By enrolling in an online degree program through Western Governors University, Redler has been able to complete her coursework and assessments on her own time, from her own home.

“I graduated with my associate’s degree in 2006, but after my first child was born, I just never went back [for my bachelor’s]. It wasn’t feasible with my family,” Redler said.  “Fast forward to today, where I am about to earn the bachelor’s degree that I started working toward 18 years ago. It couldn’t have happened without WGU.”

On August 30, 2022, Governor Pete Ricketts and WGU President Scott Pulsipher signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) establishing Nebraska as the 12th WGU state affiliate and empowering more Nebraskans like Redler to pursue degrees against all odds.

“This really is a great way to help Nebraskans continue to get the education they need to take the great jobs that we’ve got available in Nebraska,” Gov. Ricketts said. “This is why we are the ‘Good Life’ here in Nebraska, because people have those educational opportunities. WGU is going to help make sure that is true for everybody.”

Access and Affordability for All

This MOU is just the most recent chapter in a longstanding relationship between WGU and the state of Nebraska, which is often regarded as “the birthplace of WGU.” It was in Omaha that, in 1996, ten visionary governors committed to creating an online university system that would allow all students to learn, independent of time and place.

Now, by becoming a state affiliate, Nebraska is expanding access to affordable, high-quality online degree programs for all residents–including the estimated 306,000 Nebraskans who have some college credits but no bachelor’s degree.

“Most everyone in the U.S., and in Nebraska certainly, assumes college looks one way: a campus, a classroom, a faculty member. But for so many Nebraskans, that’s out of reach,” Pulsipher said. “One of the biggest benefits of this partnership is that it increases the awareness that there are other models of postsecondary education that may be the right option for you.”

While pursuing a degree through WGU comes at a fraction of the price of a traditional institution, tuition can still be a barrier for many Nebraskans. This new partnership between WGU and Nebraska creates two new opportunities for students to access financial support. First, by recognizing WGU as an authorized school, the Nebraska Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education has made it possible for WGU students to apply for need-based assistance through the Nebraska Opportunity Grant.

In celebration of the WGU Nebraska affiliate, WGU has also established the WGU-Nebraska Partnership Scholarship, which will provide up to $200,000 in financial aid.

“We know that for education to fulfill its promise as the surest path to opportunity, it has to be affordable,” Pulsipher said.

In addition to expanding access to financial aid, the MOU also establishes a partnership between WGU and community colleges across the state, creating even more opportunities for higher education. Dr. Paul Illich, President of Southeast Community College, explained that this partnership will allow students who have graduated with their associate degrees to seamlessly transfer their credits toward a bachelor’s degree at WGU.

“While some may see other colleges as competitors, I think it’s really important that institutions of higher education think of each other as collaborators,” Illich said. “None of us have ownership over knowledge and learning. In fact, we’re at our best when we’re sharing those resources.”

A Dream Career Made Possible

On the morning of August 30, Redler stood before an audience of politicians, policymakers, educators, and peers in the atrium of Southeast Community College in Lincoln, Nebraska.

With a tear in her eye and a tremble in her voice, she shared that she’d recently begun teaching sixth grade in her hometown of Albion, achieving her dream of becoming an educator before even receiving her diploma.

“I am confident and knowledgeable in the classroom because of what WGU has taught me. I am proud of what I have accomplished. I am showing my three children that you should never give up on your dreams. I am falling in love with my career,” she said. “And I owe all of that to WGU.”

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