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Jun 1, 2023

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WGU is improving equitable education in Montana

The great state of Montana is famous for its sweeping vistas and towering mountains. As the third largest state geographically, Montana covers a lot of ground considering it’s the eighth least-populous state. Roughly 44% of the state’s 2020 population was rural.

While having such a widely dispersed population allows rural residents to breathe in the wide open air, it also poses an issue of accessibility. Students in rural Montana faced limited job opportunities in their local communities. For those residents who wanted to change their career path by returning to school, equitable access to education was practically non-existent.

In 2021, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Western Governors University (WGU) to expand equitable access to state financial aid programs. While a MoU doesn’t bind a lawmaker to any specific legislation, it does illustrate an attitude of collaboration and community with the state and WGU. By signing the MoU, Gov. Gianforte has illustrated his commitment to Montana’s current and future online students.

Education Closer to Home

In areas like Montana, rural communities are struggling as folks move away to larger cities and communities to access education and opportunity. While it’s true that some folks would leave regardless, a big factor for the exodus of students is a lack of opportunity. As much as a person may want to stay in their hometown, when there isn’t a university available, becoming a qualified worker is impossible without uprooting and leaving.

By earning a degree with WGU, students in rural areas can gain the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in their careers without the need to relocate. WGU is accredited and its programs are designed in collaboration with industry experts and employers to ensure that students are prepared for careers in their chosen fields. The university also provides students with access to a wide range of support services, including academic advising, mentoring, and 24/7 online tutoring.

WGU’s competency-based education model is designed to be flexible and accommodate the needs of working students, which is a common challenge for many residents of rural areas. With this model, students can study and complete coursework on their own schedule, without the need to attend set class times. They can also progress through their program as quickly as they desire, allowing them to complete their degree in a shorter amount of time and save money on tuition and fees.

WGU is well-suited for residents of rural Montana–and other rural states–as it provides access to high-quality, flexible, and affordable education to students regardless of their location. The online format allows students in rural areas to complete their degrees from their homes, without the need to commute to a physical campus.

Keeping the Workforce Local

Keeping highly educated students local can help states prosper. As it stands, states with large rural populations face skills gaps when students leave to access opportunities elsewhere. WGU helps to address the skills gap in states’ workforces and prepare students for successful careers. This can lead to increased economic growth and development, as well as improved quality of life for residents.

Overall, partnering with WGU can be a strategic and effective way for states to invest in their future and build a stronger, more resilient workforce. Gov. Gianforte recognized the opportunity to strengthen Montana when he signed the MoU with WGU.

“This is good collaboration, providing more options for students to fulfill their educational goals,” Gov. Gianforte said.

“This is good collaboration, providing more options for students to fulfill their educational goals,” Gov. Gianforte said.

By signing the MoU, Montana–one of the founding states of WGU–has re-committed to bringing education to all students, rural and urban. Montana is continuing to create pathways to opportunity as more and more students are able to access WGU’s stellar education.

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