Heady times for Western Governors University

Just a few years ago, it appeared to be struggling.  Now, like Indiana did, Washington wants to partner with them. Timing is everything.  From the Seattle Times.

At a time when Washington's higher-education budget is being slashed, some lawmakers believe a partnership with WGU could provide more access to college programs without costing the state any money. Earlier this session, the House voted 70-26 in favor of HB 1822, which would create a partnership between the state and WGU, similar to a partnership WGU established last year with the state of Indiana. The measure is now before the Senate.

Critics say the legislation raises philosophical questions about just what constitutes a college education. They say WGU is not a substitute for a four-year degree at a traditional college because students don't get the rich give-and-take between their professors and other students.

Training over thinking?

Johann Neem, an associate professor of history at Western Washington University, says a college degree should mean more than getting training to do a specific job; it should also develop deeper thinking skills, and include exposure to the arts and sciences.

WGU President Robert Mendenhall calls the university "a faster and more cost-effective path" for a working adult to get a degree than going to a traditional college or university. He says it does require students to complete course work and demonstrate competency in the liberal arts.

Most WGU students would have a hard time getting accepted into a four-year state school, or if they were, would struggle to finish because they are working full-time, he said.

WGU students get credit for what they already know, also known as competency-based learning. For example, a student majoring in information technology who has already mastered a skill on the job — one that isn't reflected in his or her academic résumé — could get credit for that work after demonstrating knowledge of the skill, Mendenhall said.


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