Western Governors University

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Western Governors University
Online College Degrees at Western Governors University - WGU
Motto in English
"A New Kind of U."
Type Private, Non-profit
Established 1997 (1997)
Affiliation Governors of the Member States
Chairman Jim Geringer
President Scott D. Pulsipher[1]
Provost Marni Baker Stein, Ph.D.[1]
Founders Mike Leavitt
Roy Romer[2]
Academic staff
3,423 Faculty[3]
Administrative staff
5,209 Employees[3]
Students 91,436[3]
Undergraduates 67,467
Postgraduates 23,969
Location Salt Lake City, UT, USA
40°45′0″N 111°53′0″W / 40.75000°N 111.88333°W / 40.75000; -111.88333Coordinates: 40°45′0″N 111°53′0″W / 40.75000°N 111.88333°W / 40.75000; -111.88333
Campus Online
Type of education Competency-based
Colors Navy and Gold
         
Mascot Sage the Night Owl
Website www.wgu.edu

Wgu-national-desktop-logo.png

Western Governors University (WGU) is a private, nonprofit, online university based in Salt Lake City, Utah. The university was founded by 19 U.S. governors in 1997 after the idea was formulated at a 1995 meeting of the Western Governors Association.[4] The university uses a competency-based learning model, with students working online. Scott D. Pulsipher is the current university president, having joined WGU on April 11, 2016; WGU's first president, Robert Mendenhall, is president emeritus and remains a member of WGU's Board of Trustees. WGU offers courses that are accredited by NWCCU, NCATE, CCNE, CAHIIM, and the ACBSP.[5][6]

A September 2017 federal audit concluded that many WGU courses do not offer regular and substantive interaction with an instructor, and much of the curriculum fails to meet federal eligibility standards for financial aid. The school disputes the findings, and the Department of Education is reviewing the audit. A spokeswoman for the Department of Education and others have noted that the school has enjoyed bipartisan support and has been praised as innovative, and it has been reported that the Department is "unlikely to follow through on the inspector general's recommendations".[7][8]

History[edit]

Mike Leavitt Co-Founder and former Governor of Utah
Roy Romer Co-Founder and former Governor of Colorado

WGU was officially founded in 1997 in the United States by the governors of 19 U.S. states.[4] It was first proposed by then-governor of Utah Mike Leavitt at the annual meeting of the Western Governors Association in June 1995. It was formally proposed the following November, and in June 1996 each signing state governor committed $100,000 toward the launch of the new competency-based university. While the seed money was provided from government sources, the school was to be established as a self-supporting private, nonprofit institution. In January 1997, 13 governors were on hand to sign the articles of incorporation formally beginning the new university.

In 2001, the United States Department of Education awarded $10 million to found the Teachers College, and the first programs were offered in Information Technology. In 2003, the university became the first school to be accredited in four different regions by the Interregional Accrediting Committee. In 2006, the fourth college, the College of Health Professions, was founded, and the school's Teachers College became the first online teacher-preparation program to receive NCATE accreditation. In 2010, the first state-established offshoot WGU Indiana, was founded by Mitch Daniels, governor of Indiana, and the school reached 20,000 students for the first time. In 2011, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided $4.5 million for WGU Indiana and the creation of WGU Texas and WGU Washington.[9]

On January 8, 2013, Bill Haslam, governor of Tennessee, announced the creation of WGU Tennessee.[10] On January 28, 2013, Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri, in his annual State of the State address, announced the founding of WGU Missouri, creating the fifth state-based subsidiary of WGU.[11] And on June 16, 2015, Governor Brian Sandoval of Nevada launched WGU Nevada, the sixth state-based WGU. The subsidiaries of WGU share the same academic model, faculty, services, accreditation, tuition, and curricula as WGU and were established to give official state endorsement and increased name recognition to WGU in those states, as well as qualifying students of those affiliates for state-based aid. WGU does not maintain physical campuses for these institutions.

As of December 31, 2017, the university had 91,436 currently enrolled students,[12] and more than 100,000 people had graduated from the institution.[13]

The average age of a WGU student is 37.[14]

Presidents of WGU[edit]

# Picture Name Period
1 Mendenhall-WGU.jpg Robert Mendenhall 1999–2016
2 Scott Pulsipher 2016–present

Affiliates[edit]

Affiliates & Year Founded
WGU Indiana
2010
WGU Washington
2011
WGU Texas
2011
WGU Missouri
2013
WGU Tennessee
2013
WGU Nevada
2015
WGU North Carolina
2017
WGU Ohio
2018

In addition to being founded by governors, several states have affiliated online schools. Though state funding in some instances was used for the creation, each school is self-supporting through tuition and donations and overseen by the WGU board along with a local state chancellor and advisory board. The online campuses WGU offshoots offer the same programs and curricula as the national WGU student body receives, and accreditation is through WGU.

WGU Indiana[edit]

Chancellor
Dr. Allison Barber[15]

WGU Indiana is WGU's first satellite school, created on June 11, 2010, by executive order of then-governor Mitch Daniels. At its founding, Daniels stated "Today we mark the beginning of, in a real sense, Indiana's eighth state university".[16] With this partnership, WGU Indiana is approved for Indiana state grants and scholarships offered through the State Student Assistance Commission of Indiana (SSACI). Students graduating from Ivy Tech, the state's community college system, can take advantage of an articulation agreement which allows them to transfer all credits, waive the application fee, and receive a 5% discount on tuition. The school is based in Indianapolis. Dr. Allison Barber is the school's chancellor.[17]

WGU Washington[edit]

Chancellor
Dr. Richard Cummins[18]

WGU Washington was created in April 2011, with the passing of House Bill 1822.[19] It was signed into law by Governor Christine Gregoire. Former Washington State governor Mike Lowry was one of the founding governors of the university. A bill passed in April 2013 made students eligible for state grants like in-state schools.[20] A transfer agreement allows students who graduate from state community colleges to receive a 5% discount. The founding Washington Chancellor was former Bellevue College President Jean Floten.[21] Floten retired in 2017. Richard Cummins, Ph.D., who was President of Columbia Basin College, became the current Chancellor in April 2017.

WGU Texas[edit]

Chancellor
Dr. Steven Johnson[22]

Governor Rick Perry of Texas founded WGU Texas in August 2011 with Executive Order RP 75.[23] Perry's predecessor George W. Bush was one of the founding governors of the university. The creation was supported by Rep. Dan Branch, Republican leader of the House Education Committee and Sen. Judith Zaffirini, Democratic Chair of the Senate Education Committee. It called for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Texas Education Agency and Texas Workforce Commission to help with its founding.[24] The state school will have an Advisory Board appointed by the governor and be based in Austin. Dr. Steven Johnson is the current Texas Chancellor.[22]

WGU Missouri[edit]

Chancellor
Dr. Angie Besendorfer[25]

Governor Jay Nixon first announced the creation of WGU Missouri in his annual State of the State address in January 2013.[11] He signed Executive Order 13-04 officially starting the new school.[26] He stated "(Missouri) has great opportunities for higher education, and I'm proud to say we've just added one more. WGU Missouri."[27] It was created using funds from Federal Community Development Block Grants and a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.[28] The school has an advisory board and its own local chancellor, Dr. Angela (Angie) Besendorfer. Students are eligible for state grants. It is based in Jefferson City.[29]

WGU Tennessee[edit]

Chancellor
Kim Estep, Ph.D.[30][31]

Governor Bill Haslam announced the creation of WGU Tennessee in January 2013. The initiative was part of his "Drive for 55" plan to bring the college graduation rate of the state up to 55%. The school was started with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and $5 million in one-time state funds. Students are eligible for state financial aid. The school, based in Franklin, has a local chancellor, Kimberly K. Estep, Ph.D., and advisory board.[32][33]

WGU Nevada[edit]

Chancellor
Spencer Stewart[34]

Governor Brian Sandoval created WGU Nevada by proclamation and a memorandum of understanding with WGU, launching the sixth WGU online campus on June 16, 2015. It was created with a $2 million grant from United Student Aid Funds and required no startup funding from the state. At the time of the launch, WGU had more than 900 students and more than 850 alumni in Nevada.[35] Dr. Spencer Stewart was named chancellor of WGU Nevada.

WGU North Carolina[edit]

Chancellor
Catherine Truitt[36]

North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest announced WGU North Carolina along with WGU President Scott Pulsipher, launching the seventh WGU online campus on October 5, 2017. The establishment of WGU North Carolina was authorized by the North Carolina General Assembly and the Governor in October 2015. The state appropriated $2 million and the University raised $5 million from committed contributions by Strada Education Network, Golden LEAF Foundation, and Dell Loy Hansen, a private donor. Catherine Truitt will lead WGU North Carolina.[37]

WGU Ohio[edit]

Chancellor
Dr. Rebecca Watts[38]

The Ohio General Assembly authorized the state of Ohio to partner with WGU, and was signed by Governor John Kasich on June 30, 2017.[39] WGU Ohio is the latest satellite school to open, created on June 21, 2018.[40] The agreement to start the satellite school was agreed upon by Scott Pulsipher the Western Governors University President and the Chancellor of the University System of Ohio John Carey.

WGU Ohio's Chancellor is Dr. Rebecca Watts who previously served as an academic administrator with the University of Wyoming and an associate vice chancellor with the Ohio Department of Higher Education.[41]

Governance[edit]

WGU is governed by its Board of Trustees and numerous state governors.[42] The Board of Trustees provides corporate governance over the university. The Trustees set policy for the university, and serves as WGU's legal owner and final authority. Overall the Board of Trustees hold the institution's resources in trust and are responsible for making sure that the resources are being used efficiently and effectively.[43]

Board of Trustees Composition[edit]

Governors of Member States as of 2018[edit]

Academics[edit]

WGU online degree offerings as of 2018
Bachelor's degrees Master's degrees
College of Business[44] 6 options 6 options
Teachers College[45] 9 options 19 options
College of Information Technology[46] 8 options 3 options
College of Health Professions[47] 4 options 7 options

All students at WGU are assigned a working mentor who are members of the faculty, and together they create a personalized Academic Action Plan (AAP) for the student's degree plan.[48] The mentor advises and assists the student from enrollment through degree completion. The student's personalized AAP is based on the courses that are agreed upon between the student and their assigned mentor.[49] The AAP keeps track of the student's progress of courses completed through six month terms. Students at WGU have some control over how much coursework they complete per term, but are required to complete a minimum amount of courses each term to maintain full-time status.[50] Terms consist of six-month "rolling" semesters, which start for individual students on the first of every month. Classes are assigned individual terms lasting six weeks but students may proceed at their own pace. Many classes have "cohorts", or students working in the same general time frame, to facilitate online meetings and discussions, though students in any given cohort progress to the next course as soon as they are able to prove their knowledge. Course mentors provide both group and individual instruction as well as moderating online discussions.

WGU is composed of four colleges, each offering bachelor's and master's degree programs. As of October 2014, 55 bachelor's, master's, and post-baccalaureate degree programs, as well as teacher endorsement preparation programs, were offered among the four colleges.[51]

Military Advanced Education & Transition and Viqtory Media have repeatedly named WGU as a military-friendly institution in their yearly reports.[52][53][54]

Colleges[edit]

WGU offers online bachelor's and master's degree programs through the following colleges:[51]

WGU Colleges
Colleges Year founded Current Dean Total Students

College of Business 1999 Rashmi Prasad[55] 33.572[3]
College of Information Technology 1999 Elke Leeds, Ph.D.[56] 13,272[3]
Teachers College 2003 Dr. Deborah Eldridge[57] 20,016[3]
College of Health Professions 2006 Jan Jones-Schenk, DHSc, RN[58] 24,576[3]

Rankings[edit]

Flag in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah celebrating WGU's 15th anniversary

WGU is listed as "Unranked" in US News and World Report's 2018 rankings of colleges and universities.[59]

In 2015, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) rated WGU's secondary teaching program scored highest in best value in teacher education[60] and the National League for Nursing named WGU's College of Health Professions a Center of Excellence.[61] In 2014, US News and World Report, in its academic rankings of teacher education programs in conjunction with NCTQ, ranked WGU #1 in the nation for secondary teacher education among both online and traditional universities.[62][63] In 2013, WGU was named one of the 50 most innovative companies in Fast Company's Most Innovative Companies Issue, ranking #28.[64] In recent years, WGU has been the nation's top producer, in terms of numbers of licensure graduates, of science and math teachers.[65] WGU has also received the 21st Century Award for Best Practices in Distance Learning from the United States Distance Learning Association on multiple occasions.[5]

Methodology[edit]

WGU has competency-based programs for completing degree and certificate requirements. Competency-based programs allow students to demonstrate through assessments that they have acquired the set of competencies (levels of knowledge, skill, or ability) required for a particular degree or certificate. WGU is the first accredited school to use the competency-based approach, driving a growing trend toward competency-based higher education. Former United States Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan has stated, "While such programs [like WGU] are now the exception, I want them to be the norm."[66]

All aspects (with the exception of demonstration teaching for teacher licensure programs and clinical experiences in the pre-licensure program for nurses) are completed entirely online. The university states that "learning resources come in a variety of forms, including textbooks, web-based tutorials, simulations, [and] online classes."[67] The university doesn't develop its own courses, but instead licenses course modules from commercial providers such as Pearson and McGraw-Hill.[68]

Performance-based assessments are normally completed by submitting written assignments through an online service. Submissions are checked for integrity by comparing them to a database of other documents submitted to WGU and other universities and other documents available online. The objective assessment component is a proctored exam. Exams are usually taken online and monitored by a proctoring company such as ProctorU or Examity using a university-provided webcam. There are no open-book exams.[69]

Admissions[edit]

WGU has a multi-step admissions process. Admissions requirements differ depending on which academic program the student chooses to attend. Many programs require either an Associate degree from an accredited college or a specific amount of related, verifiable work experience in the field in which a student wishes to study. The school does not require SAT or ACT scores for admission. Undergraduate programs require the student to possess a high school diploma or GED and pass the school's Collegiate Readiness Assessment, and admission into all programs requires an interview with a WGU enrollment counselor to determine whether the competency-based approach is appropriate for the student.[70]

Graduation rate[edit]

The U.S. Department of Education lists the graduation rate at WGU as 26%. This rate tracks the graduation of first-time, full-time college students,[71] which is less than 1% of all WGU students.[72] The internally-tracked graduation rate for all students as reported by the university is 50%.[73]

Ethnic composition of student body[74]
Student Body[74] U.S. Census[75]
African American 11.8% 13.3%
Asian American 4.5% 5.7%
Hispanic American
(of any race)
6.3% 17.8%
Unknown 3.1% N/A
Two or more races 2.6% 2.6%
Native American 0.6% 0.2%
Non-Hispanic White 70.6% 61.3%

Student demographics[edit]

Western Governors University adult students include the military, civilian federal and state employees, working adults pursuing first or second degrees, and students taking additional coursework in preparation for graduate school. WGU students are 63% female, 37% male and an average age of 37.[74][76]

University governance[edit]

As a private, nonprofit university, WGU is governed by a board of trustees that consists of state governors, educators, and business and industry leaders. In addition, the university's National Advisory Board consists of leaders from private corporations and foundations which support the university. Current members include Google, Microsoft, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and AT&T among many others. Each state-affiliate school also has a local Chancellor and Advisory board from within the state.[42] Course competencies are defined with input from third-party councils made up of business, academic, and industry leaders, who guide the university in determining what a successful graduate in any given degree program must know to be a valuable employee.

The university has no physical campus and does not participate in intercollegiate sports.[4]

Faculty[edit]

WGU's disaggregated faculty consists of program mentors (faculty members who advise and guide a student throughout his or her entire degree program), course instructors (subject-matter experts who advise, tutor, and guide students through specific courses), program faculty (who oversee course content), and evaluation faculty (who evaluate/grade assignments). The university has more than 2,000 faculty members, most of whom work full-time (the exception being part-time assessment evaluators).[77]

Academic integrity[edit]

Some Western Governors University courses require students to take exams with an online proctor viewing the student as they complete the examination.[78] Online proctoring is the monitoring or invigilation of assessments taken remotely. Online proctors verify test-taker identity and monitor to prevent cheating using a variety of methods, including live, record-and-review, and automated proctoring. Online proctoring services for WGU offers identity verification services and assessment monitoring.[79]

Some of the courses require assignments to be completed using the Taskstream software package and the Turnitin service to check assignments for plagiarism.[80][81]

Accreditation[edit]

Western Governors University Administration Building in Salt Lake City, Utah
Western Governors University Commencement Ceremony in 2013

WGU is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.[82] WGU says it was the first and only university to date to be reviewed and awarded accreditation by four differing regional accreditors.[5]

In 2006, the WGU Teachers College became the first exclusively online school to receive accreditation from the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).[83]

In May 2009, WGU's nursing education programs were accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The initial accreditation, which had a five-year term, was awarded following a process that included a site visit as well as a review of WGU's nursing curriculum.[84] In May 2014, CCNE extended WGU's accreditation through June 2024. "Western Governors University Earns CCNE Accreditation for Another 10 Years". 

In 2011, WGU's B.S. in Health Informatics degree received accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM).

In 2018, the WGU College of Business was accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).[85][86]

2017 U.S. Department of Education audit[edit]

An audit by the Department of Education's Office of Inspector General, released on September 21, 2017, "concluded that Western Governors University did not comply with the institutional eligibility requirement that limits the percentage of regular students who may enroll in correspondence courses" and that "at least 69 of the 102 courses were not designed to offer regular and substantive interaction with an instructor and, therefore, did not meet the regulatory definition of distance education." Consequently, the audit found that most courses at the University fell short of the required standards for Title IV of the Federal Financial Aid Act as outlined in a 1992 law that defines financial aid eligibility.[87][8] The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Inspector General recommended that WGU repay the federal government more than $712 million.[88]

Liz Hill, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, said in a statement to the Salt Lake Tribune that they were reviewing the Inspector General's report, while also saying "the innovative student-first model used by this school and others like it has garnered bipartisan support over the last decade."[7]

In a response from WGU that was enclosed with the final audit report, WGU President Scott D. Pulsipher said "The findings in the OIG's report are based on misinterpretation and misapplication of statutory and regulatory guidance." He said "The OIG has applied an arbitrary definition and antiquated interpretation of instruction and faculty roles" that "is not aligned with law nor consistent with today's online- and technology-enabled model".[87]

Paul Fain, the news editor for Inside Higher Ed, said the "much anticipated high-stakes audit" had begun more than four years earlier and the findings were "not a surprise to most observers", due to their reliance on a 1992 law that defines aid eligibility for distance education programs.[8] He noted that the Inspector General had previously criticized accreditation assessments for competency-based education programs in 2015, partly due to concerns about the amount of interaction between faculty and students.[89] He reported that "Experts said the Trump administration is unlikely to follow through on the inspector general's recommendations, which the department can reject," and that "WGU enjoys a good track record with its accreditor and broad bipartisan support in Washington, with the Obama administration having often praised the university as an innovator."[8]

Tuition[edit]

In 2018, tuition for WGU is $3,190 per six-month term for most undergraduate programs.[90] Tuition is charged at a flat rate per six-month term, regardless of the number of courses taken or credits completed.

Alumni Association[edit]

The Western Governors University Alumni Association is the official alumni association for Western Governors University. This organization runs a number of programs.[91][not in citation given] As of January 2018, there were over 98,000 total alumni for Western Governors University.[12] Western Governors University alumni can be found in all 50 states and many countries all over the world.[3] In addition, over 350 are serving in the United States Armed Forces.[3]

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