WGU Prioritizes Students Needs –

Even though private, not-for-profit Western Governors University (WGU) and its subsidiaries in other states have seen significant increases in enrollment, the school is most concerned with being a good fit for working adults.

“WGU is focused on helping working adults complete their degrees rather than on building enrollment,” said Joan Mitchell, WGU’s director of public relations. “Before admission, each student works with an enrollment counselor to determine whether WGU’s style of learning is a good fit for the student.”

Currently, enrollment in WGU’s bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in business is about 12,000.

“We know that students who have completed some college coursework are more successful than those with no college experience, so we encourage prospective students to have some college when they enroll,” Mitchell said. “We often direct these students to community colleges and online programs such as StraighterLine to get this experience.”

Mitchell said all students are assigned a mentor – a faculty member who works with the student until graduation – on their first day of classes. The mentor meets with the student by phone at least every other week. Additionally experts in specific subject matter, referred to as course mentors, work with students on specific course materials, lead discussions and online chats, direct students to additional learning resources, and provide tutoring as needed.

Each degree program at WGU includes specific domains of study which students must complete. The school’s online degree programs are measured by competency-based learning, rather than time spent in class.

“Students advance when they demonstrate mastery of course subject matter rather than at the end of a semester,” Mitchell said. “Every course at WGU is assigned a number of competency units – much the same way a class at a traditional institution would assign credit hours – which are roughly equivalent to credits at other universities.”

Mitchell explained how the school creates and maintains a sense of community among its online students.

“WGU students can connect with each other through the student portal, where there are a number of degree and course-specific communities,” she said. “In addition, there are discussion groups and chat opportunities for students who would like to connect with others.”

Mitchell added that many students are also active in social media.

WGU has managed to buck the trend of increasing tuition costs by maintaining a steady tuition for most of its degree programs since Sept. 2008.

“Because we are online, we do not have the facility expenses associated with having bricks-and-mortar classrooms and a traditional campus,” she said.

WGU offers business students bachelor’s degrees in business management, human resource management, information technology management, sales and sales management, marketing management, and accounting, as well as master’s degrees in business administration, information technology management, and healthcare management. All of the degree programs are accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council.

Mitchell said the school plans on adding several new business programs in the next two years.

“WGU is focused on the same mission we have had since our founding – to expand access to higher education opportunities,” she said. “To do this, we will continue to work with our program councils (industry experts) to ensure that our degrees are relevant and that our students graduate with the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in their careers.”

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