Western Governors University finding niche, fulfilling mission

(Bloomington) Herald-Times

Western Governors University (WGU) is Indiana’s state university with the lowest profile. It was created under former governor and now Purdue University President Mitch Daniels in 2010 to add an alternative for working adults who want to get a degree.

In a visit to Bloomington, WGU Chancellor Allison Barber said the university continues to find its market and fill a niche. It targets the 37 million Americans, including 750,000 Hoosiers, who have some college credits but no degree.

Even in Monroe County, with Indiana University and a strong Ivy Tech Community College campus, 147 students currently are enrolled at WGU, and 140 county residents have earned a WGU degree. WGU lists 21 current students and 23 graduates from Owen County; 32 students and 30 graduates from Greene County; nine students and four graduates from Brown County; 113 students and 90 graduates from Morgan County; and 56 students and 75 graduates from Lawrence County.

Students take courses at their own pace. Barber said, “We don’t measure time; we measure learning.”

WGU students who embody Barber’s label of “independent achievers” are able to finish a degree once started but abandoned when life took a turn. About half the students who take a WGU course — 48 percent — will go on to earn a degree. According to research from Gallup, 86 percent of WGU graduates are working in their degree area. Completing the degree can open opportunities of increased salaries or potential promotions at the jobs they are in, or make them eligible and marketable for moving to another job.

The university does not receive state funding. However, as a state school, it is approved for grants and scholarships offered through the State Student Assistance Commission of Indiana. There also are benefits, especially in relation to Ivy Tech Community College, on transferring credits, waived fees and tuition discounts.

WGU isn’t IU and it’s not Ivy Tech. It doesn’t try to be or want to be. It simply provides an option for thousands of Hoosiers and is a worthy program for the state to support.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to awoods@tribtown.com.