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Grace’s Story

Jan 26, 2023

Grace Carpenter graduated high school with a dream of one day becoming a teacher. But first, she needed to pursue an education of her own. Her dream was all but crushed by the cost of a traditional college education and the crippling student loan debt that would come with it.

Then, she discovered WGU.

“With WGU, I was able to go to college and get my degree,” Grace said. “WGU made that accessible for me.” 

“I was able to go to college and get my degree. WGU made that accessible for me.”

– Grace Carpenter

Today, Grace is a special education teacher in Lake Butler, Florida, a small town in Florida’s smallest county. Her school–one of only three in the county–is classified as a Title 1 school, meaning at least 40 percent of its students come from low-income families.

“You’re either on the top of the socioeconomic scale in Lake Butler or you’re at the bottom,” Grace said. “There’s no real middle ground. The students that are struggling, they struggle the hardest and it’s very evident in the classroom.”

Grace’s classroom is, in many ways, a perfect microcosm of the larger teacher shortage plaguing our country. The shortage has hit certain subject areas (like special education) and certain locales (like rural areas) particularly hard. States in the South consistently show much higher vacancy rates than states in regions like the Northeast. In 2021, officials reported more than 4,000 teacher vacancies in Florida alone, 

From low pay to pandemic burnout, the nationwide teacher shortage can be blamed on a number of factors. Lack of passion is not one of them. There are thousands of Americans like Grace willing and eager to educate today’s youth, but barriers like time and tuition stand in the way of them achieving the credentials necessary to do so. 

WGU is eliminating those barriers, allowing those who want to teach to get out and do it in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost.

WGU’s low, flat-rate tuition means that students like Grace are charged the same amount per six-month term, regardless of how many classes they take. This adds up to an average yearly tuition of about $7,500–about half the cost of a traditional bachelor’s degree.

Plus, with WGU’s competency-based education model, students can accelerate their education and graduate faster, saving them more tuition dollars and allowing them to get into the workforce sooner. Most WGU education bachelor’s degree students finish in less than 36 months, rather than four years. 

WGU gave Grace a chance to achieve an education. Now, she wants to do the same for her students.

“That’s why I got into education,” she said. “I wanted to be able to give back to the community and teach students who aren’t really given a first chance when they’re born because they have something already against them. I just can’t see myself doing anything else.”

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