Skip to content Skip to Live Chat

WGU by the Numbers with Kurt Gunnell

Apr 16, 2023

Listen to the Sage Advice Podcast

An introduction to Western Governors University.

So, what is WGU?

This is the most common question that I receive as the VP of External Affairs for WGU. The easy answer is: WGU is an online, competency-based higher education institution that promises students a high-quality, low-cost education.

But there is so much more to the WGU story. I’ve spent the past eight years sharing this story with legislators and community leaders across the country. And now, through WGU’s Sage Advice blog, I’ll strive to share it with you.

As with most stories, it’s best to start at the beginning. Once upon a time…

The History of WGU

In the mid-1990s, governors across the western United States were challenged by the rising cost and underwhelming performance of higher education in their states. They lacked the college-educated workforce needed to fill their states’ open positions, and they needed to create an alternative–something that could avail itself to mid-career professionals looking for either a way up in their current career or a way on to the next opportunity.

At the same time these conversations were happening, a revolutionary new technology was emerging. The internet would provide a means to deliver education online to the maximum number of people. 

And so, at a 1997 meeting of the Western Governors’ Association, WGU was born. 

By harnessing the power of the internet and following a competency-based education model, WGU revolutionized the way students learn. For the first time, higher education was no longer restricted by time and place; instead, learning met the students where they were, when they were available. 

In the 25 years since, WGU has transformed the landscape of higher education–and we have the numbers to prove it.

WGU By the Numbers

FOUR: WGU offers programs in four high-demand colleges: Information Technology, Business, Healthcare, and Education. Within these four colleges, there are 67 distinct programs, each established to meet an existing workforce need.

37: The average WGU student is 37 years old, although we serve students in their teens all the way up to their late 80s.

95: Over 95 percent of employers surveyed say they would hire another WGU   student.

$8,000: The cost to pursue a degree at WGU is 8,000 dollars, broken down into two six-month terms. As a completely self-sustaining university, WGU uses these tuition dollars to cover all costs incurred in order to provide students the educational resources they need to receive a degree. [WGU Financial Aid]

8,000: WGU currently employs a staff of roughly 8,000 across the country.

45,000: WGU awarded 45,000 degrees in 2021 alone, bringing us to a total of 285,000 in our first 25 years.

132,000: As of 2022, there are 132,000 students enrolled in WGU across the country.

800,000: On average, a student who enrolls at WGU at the average age of 37 and earns a bachelor’s degree will receive an additional 800,000 dollars before retirement.

39,000,000: There are more than 39 million American adults with some college education, but no degree.

These numbers tell just a fraction of the story of WGU. Over the coming weeks, I will share more about who WGU was designed to serve, how WGU is making education work for everyone, and why we proudly claim to be the most student-centric university in the world.

Don’t miss a chapter; sign up below to receive updates from Sage Advice.

Recommended Articles

Take a look at other articles from WGU. Our articles feature information on a wide variety of subjects, written with the help of subject matter experts and researchers who are well-versed in their industries. This allows us to provide articles with interesting, relevant, and accurate information. 


WGU In Your State

On our blog, we share stories of impact from WGU students and alumni, plus updates on how we’re redrawing the education landscape.

Sage Advice Podcast

Telling the Story of WGU

Chris Bonnell, Vice President of External Affairs at WGU, is sitting down with colleagues and experts from across the industry to tell the story of WGU. 

From bridging the digital divide to solving critical workforce shortages, their conversations cover the biggest topics in higher education today–and explain why we proudly claim to be the most student-centric university in the world.

Sage Advice is a production of WGU External Affairs and is a collaboration between our team and Tellwell Story Co.

All Articles