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Sage Advice and Information for Those Pondering College

Oped by Commissioner Terry Cook

  • 15 November 2018
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 1744
  • 0 Comments

In 1995, a bi-partisan group of 11 governors met about the educational need to serve the underserved, and in 1997, they established Western Governors University. These leaders decided to take a novel approach to higher education based on technology, the internet and a new model of competency-based education.

Competency-based learning is built around the existing knowledge, skills and ability to master course material of students, allowing them to move quickly through material they already know and focus on what they need to learn.

WGU is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities and has been recognized for excellence in distance learning by the United States Distance Learning Association. For four years running, University Research and Review has recognized WGU as a “Best Value School” for its ability to provide an affordable, quality education.

In July 2017, the university celebrated its 20th anniversary. WGU now serves more than 106,000 students nationwide and 122,000 graduates in all 50 states. The university’s six-year graduation rate reached 50 percent in 2017 and continues to climb well ahead of the national average for comparable institutions.

The state affiliate, WGU Texas, was established in 2011 as a partnership between WGU and the state of Texas and offers more than 60 bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business, IT, teacher education, and healthcare.

WGU Texas serves nearly 12,000 students. For its 10,000 alumni, the university provides scholarships for graduates, a national ambassadors club and job networking opportunities plus continuing education classes.

According to Jim Johnson, the Austin area Community Relations Manager for WGU Texas, online students perform as well as those in traditional classrooms. “A report prepared by SRI International for the U. S. Department of Education revealed that students who took all or part of a class online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through traditional face-to-face instruction,” he said.

Johnson adds that online colleges are not for everyone and can be as challenging as a traditional university, but with the right level of discipline and commitment, students will succeed.  Additionally, students have access to one-on-one support and advice from faculty and program mentors throughout their programs.

Tuition runs about $3,190 per term for bachelor’s and $3,750 for master’s programs and includes e-books and learning materials. Tuition and fees are per term, and terms are six months long and can begin on the first day of any month. The university’s education model lets students accelerate their studies, saving both time and money to graduate with less debt. Since 2013, the average borrowing per year per student has decreased by more than 40 percent.

WGU Texas accepts transferred credits from almost all accredited colleges and universities for undergraduates, and offers credit for work experience, including military service. Students enroll from every part of the state, and while their average age is 37, students’ ages range from the early 20s to the late 60s.

So don’t be shy, go apply!

The university also provides educational and workforce development opportunities through community-based and corporate partnerships. Johnson would like to expand partnerships and develop stronger relationships between WGU Texas and Williamson County.

Military students, who compose about 14 percent of the student population, can earn degrees from wherever they are stationed. Since 2006, WGU has awarded over $4 million in scholarships to military personnel and their families. In the last two years, WGU Texas has awarded more than $1.7 million in scholarships.

Based on the last Census, there were 36,824 veterans in Williamson County. WGU seems a perfect college opportunity for Wilco veterans, who can take advantage of scholarships, such as the $3,000 “Salute to Veterans Scholarship.” For more information, please visit http://www.wgu.edu/thanks.

Students pursuing health professions like nursing have usually completed their clinicals at other colleges or can do so on weekends at a partnership school. WGU partners with affiliates of the Texas Association of Community Colleges, including Austin Community College.

IT students can be assured their program includes certification prep and exams as part of their coursework, tailored to today's IT industry requirements. WGU Texas also offers programs specifically tailored to teachers. Round Rock Independent School District employees qualify for a five percent tuition discount.

In a 2017 Harris Interactive Survey, employers said that 100 percent of WGU graduates are prepared for their jobs, and 91 percent rate their job performance as excellent or very good.

WGU graduates work in top positions at companies such as Aetna, American Express, Delta Airlines, Microsoft, Pfizer, Toyota and Visa.

These graduates are living up to the school’s mascot: an owl named Sage.

I strongly encourage anyone considering college to visit https://www.wgu.edu/#.

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