University of Phoenix Competitive Landscape, Pt 1
Western Governors University is a non-profit, accredited, affordable university specializing in four areas--IT, business, K-12 education, and health professions. The university has pioneered a competency-based education program being considered by other, more traditional universities. WGU is financially sound and has over 121,000 students enrolled. Two innovative programs--the Center for Applied Learning and the Take a Break program--earned innovation awards in 2019. Recent news articles highlight WGU's influence on Ohio State colleges, the U.S. Department of Education allowing the college to participate in the student loan program, and the launch of a college readiness program called WGU Academy.
Western Governors University
- Western Governors University (WGU) is an online, accredited, non-profit university, offering both undergraduate and graduate degrees in health professions, IT, business, and K-12 education.
- Over 20 years ago, WGU was founded by 19, bipartisan Governors from Western states to address future students, who they believed would need more flexibility--times of day and location of classes--to earn their degree.
- WGU pioneered competency-based education, namely, students pass classes once they demonstrate they have mastered the skills and knowledge. The class doesn't end when the semester ends, but rather once the students have demonstrated he or she is competent in the material.
- WGU begins courses on the first of each month, hence students do not need to wait to enroll for fall or spring semester.
- WGU is financially sound. The original 19 governors each donated $100,000 to found the university. However, WGU currently does not depend on any state appropriations to pay employees and provide an education.
- One measure of the university's financial health is the fact that tuition costs have held steady ($6500) for the past 10 years; that is, tuition costs did not need to increase per student because of shortfalls in the budget or low enrollment.
- Another measure of WGU's financial health is the fact that enrollment is growing at a rate of 20 percent each year.
- The primary source of revenue for WGU is tuition, however, the university does receive some government grants and contracts, private gifts, and earns interest each year on the university investments.
- 121,448 students--both undergraduate and graduate--are enrolled at WGU as of November 30, 2019.
- In 2019, National Research Center for College and University Admission (NRCCUA) awarded an innovation award to WGU for its Center for Applied Learning Science (CALS). CALS's mission is to figure out how students learn and, to this end, developed novel approaches to math anxiety as well as studied the affective aspects of learning.
- Also in 2019, WGU was recognized by the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) for their innovative program--Take a Break--which enables students to take a 10-minute break during online exams without any breach to security.
- ColumbusCEO reports on the success of WGU's competency-based approach to student learning in its Ohio location and how Ohio is considering adopting this educational philosophy in both two-year and four-year state universities.
- This press release from the Department of Education explains that WGU reversed an Inspector General report that claimed the university should refund $712 million in student loans. The Department of Education, contrary to the 2017 IG report, ruled that WGU is eligible to participate in the student loan program.
- This press release announces the launch of the WGU Academy, an affordable online program designed to help under-served and ill-prepared students to develop the skills and competencies necessary for enrolling in college.
The team first focused on WGU's website and 2018 annual report to gather sources describing the programs, philosophy, and history of the program.
To determine how financially sound WGU is, we turned to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), which provides important data on universities and colleges. We also searched business periodicals (e.g., Forbes) and white papers (the Christensen Institute) that discussed WGU's business model.
We found enrollment numbers from November 2019--broken down by state, ethnicity, age, etc.--on WGU's website. The team also searched through their news releases to find recent innovations in curriculum or programs that received awards.
Finally, we searched through education periodicals, as well as, newspapers, to find recent stories and press releases concerning WGU.