Western Governors University Reports Great Progress
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Western Governors University (WGU) delivered an update on its progress over the past year to its Board of Trustees today at their quarterly board meeting hosted by WGU corporate partner America Online in Dulles, Virginia. The online, distance education university that offers competency-based degree programs at the associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s levels reported an excellent year of progress.
WGU President Bob Mendenhall stated, “WGU achieved several significant milestones in the year 2000 including the approval of our candidacy for accreditation from IRAC (Interregional Accrediting Committee), our first graduate with a MA in learning and technology, a 150 percent increase in our enrollment numbers, and a 33 percent increase in net assets. In addition, the WGU Web site passed the 1 million-user mark.”
The university currently has 500 students enrolled, up from 200 students one year ago. The average age of WGU students is 40 years, and 85 percent work full-time. The university has students enrolled from 44 states and five countries with a nearly even split between male and female students.
WGU’s first graduate, Gennie Kirch, a Roy, Utah elementary school teacher, said she never would have received her master’s degree without WGU’s program. “For the past 15 years, I’ve wanted to get my master’s degree, and was accepted in a traditional university, but time, money, and family circumstances prevented it from happening,” said Ms. Kirch. “I often studied in the middle of the night when I had the time, and when the Internet was faster, but sometimes I wasn’t sure I could keep going. I think it was definitely as difficult as a traditional classroom education — maybe harder.”
Mark Mallet, Pharm D., a currently enrolled student living in Phoenixville, PA, is working toward his certificate in software applications. His original interest in WGU revolved around consideration of a new career. “I was looking for a program that I could do on my own timeline, was flexible, and would give me what I thought would be a good introduction in information systems careers without spending a lot of time taking prerequisites to get to the classes I needed,” stated Mallet. “WGU pretty much fulfilled those requirements. While I am no longer considering a career change, I am continuing my program for my personal edification, having been interested in computers, programming, and system design for many years.”
Salt Lake City database administrator, Jason Brimhall, is working toward a bachelor’s degree from Utah State University while also pursuing an AAS degree in information technology/network administration from WGU. “I wanted to do this at my own pace, which is usually faster than a college classroom,” Brimhall stated. “WGU has turned out to be just the right program for me.”
After a year of study at WGU, Boise, ID, Linux instructor Joel Hardman says his program, an AAS degree in information technology/network administration, is definitely meeting his expectations. “This is much better for me than traditional college campus education,” he said. “I’m a quick learner and have felt that I’m being held back by classroom work. WGU lets me move at my own pace.” Joel also likes the flexibility. “I get home from work late and study from midnight to 2 am, or if I’m tired, I’ll do it first thing in the morning. Yes, it takes discipline to balance work and study, but it’s worth it.”
WGU offers 939 courses in its online catalog from 40 education providers from across the United States and Canada. The university has 30 employees and faculty members in both its Salt Lake City, UT office, where WGU is based, and virtually in California, Colorado, South Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin. WGU also contracts with some 60 additional faculty members throughout the country that serve on the university’s program and assessment councils that are primarily responsible for degree development, revisions, and quality assurance.
The university now offers seven competency-based degree programs including associate of applied science degrees in IT/network administration and IT/CNE, associate of science degrees in business and IT, as well as an associate of arts, bachelor of science in business, and a master of arts degree in learning and technology. In addition, WGU now has seven articulation agreements in place with institutions from around the country including Antioch University (OH), Bellevue University (NE), Jones International University (CO), Masters Institute (CA), Regis University (CO), SUNY Empire State College (NY), and Thomas Edison State College (NJ). These strategic alliances allow students who graduate with a WGU competency-based degree to transfer into credit-based programs offered by the above institutions.
The university now has 21 corporate and foundation partners with its newest partners including Convergys, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, SCT, and Qwest. These partners join America Online, Apple, AT&T, Cisco Systems, Drake International, IBM, KPMG Consulting, Micron Technology, Microsoft, Novell, Sallie Mae, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Sun Microsystems, Swartz Foundation, Thomson Learning/Prometric, and 3Com in their support of the university and its mission.
WGU is an online, competency-based university. With just a few clicks at www.wgu.edu, a student can find competency-based degree programs, an online catalog of quality distance-learning courses, an online library, bookstore, and one-on-one access to a personal WGU mentor, who will guide the student through his or her customized degree program. WGU was founded and is supported by 19 states and governors as well as 21 leading corporations and foundations. Current WGU competency-based degree programs are focused in three areas: IT, business, and education.