Online university to make a college degree more affordable and accessible for Texans
AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry, with the support of Higher Education Chairs Sen. Judith Zaffirini and Rep. Dan Branch, today announced the creation of WGU Texas, a subsidiary of Western Governors University (WGU), which is an accredited, nationally-recognized, nonprofit university. WGU Texas will offer an affordable and flexible alternative for Texans seeking a higher education degree. The governor also signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to enhance the state’s participation with and support of WGU, which was founded in 1997 by governors of 19 states, including Texas.
“Earning a college degree is one of the most effective ways for individuals to improve the quality of life for themselves and their families,” Gov. Perry said. “By offering online, competency-based courses in key workforce areas, WGU Texas provides another flexible, affordable way for Texans to fulfill their potential and contribute their talents for years and decades to come, without any need for state funding. Our strengthened collaboration with WGU plays an important role in the effort to ensure Texas has an equipped workforce to meet the needs of job creators.”
WGU is an online university that primarily serves working adults and offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in key workforce areas of business, information technology, education and health professions, including nursing. More than 75 percent of students are low income, minority, first generation to attend college or rural students. WGU does not receive state funding, but is self-sustaining on tuition of about $5,780 per 12-month year. WGU was started through a memorandum of understanding and provision of $100,000 in start-up funding from each of the 19 founding states.
“Working Texans who cannot pursue their higher education goals on college campuses certainly should reap the benefits of WGU Texas’ online, competency-based model,” Sen. Judith Zaffirini said. “They also should benefit from the program’s flexibility, which will allow them to meet family and work responsibilities while continuing their studies. Although WGU Texas does not receive state funding and is self-sustaining through tuition, it will help address our state’s key workforce needs while offering affordable career and continuing education opportunities to Texans over 30.”
WGU Texas is being created through Executive Order RP 75, which calls on state agencies to work cooperatively with WGU toward the creation and establishment of WGU Texas. It also directs agencies including the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), Texas Education Agency and Texas Workforce Commission to create appropriate data sharing processes as may be required by state or federal guidelines for higher education providers.
“Texas needs legions of new, sharp, credentialed minds to succeed in a knowledge-based economy,” Rep. Dan Branch said. “The creation of WGU Texas will provide another low cost, flexible and tested option for Texans seeking to compete in a global marketplace.”
This MOU is an addendum to the one executed by the state and WGU in 1997, and further enhances Texas’ participation and support of WGU Texas, particularly through the creation of an advisory board whose members will be appointed in consultation with the governor.
“By establishing WGU Texas, Gov. Perry and the State of Texas are making quality higher education more accessible for working adults throughout the Lone Star State,” said Dr. Robert W. Mendenhall, President of WGU. “We look forward to this partnership with the state, which will help thousands of Texans earn the college degrees they want and need, on a schedule they can manage, at a cost they can afford.”
WGU degrees are competency-based, meaning students advance by demonstrating their knowledge and abilities, rather than accumulating credit hours. This model better serves adult learners who enroll with specific skill sets, allowing them to graduate faster. Additionally, this model particularly benefits veterans, who are able to apply the skills they learned in the military toward their degrees, which helps implement SB 1736 that created the College Credit for Heroes Program and was signed by Gov. Perry. More than 25,000 students from all 50 states, including 1,600 Texans, are enrolled at WGU, which has grown more than 30 percent annually.
“WGU Texas will significantly expand access to affordable, high quality education and training,” said THECB Commissioner Raymund Paredes. “This initiative is yet another innovation that is making Texas a national role model for reinventing higher education.” Read More