WGU is so hot right now

The Washington Monthly has a fascinating piece on Western Governors University.  Despite the emphasis on for-profits in the article's title, I think all colleges and universities should, if not fear WGU, at least learn from it.  WGU does a lot of good things, and it appears to retain online learner better than most.  I'm hoping that continuing education in Tennessee is serving adult college students well enough to prevent outsourcing that market to WGU, like Indiana and Washington did.

The College For-profits Should Fear
Robinson doesn’t remember exactly how he discovered Western Governors University; he thinks he may have clicked on an advertisement generated by a Google search. He noticed that the school was accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, a professional oversight body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education; that seemed promising. (WGU happens to be the only all-online school that bears that distinction.) He also noticed that the university was founded by the governors of nineteen U.S. states, which seemed a legitimate, if unusual, provenance. A phone call with an admissions counselor sealed the deal. He enrolled in July 2009.

With that, Robinson stumbled into one of the most unassuming but revolutionary institutions in American higher education. Western Governors differs in several respects from the crush of online schools that have mushroomed in recent years to serve working adults like Robinson. For one thing, unlike the Phoenixes, Capellas, Ashfords, and Grand Canyons that plaster America’s billboards, Web sites, and subway cars with ads, Western Governors is a nonprofit institution. That means no $100 million marketing budget, and no 30 percent profit margin. For anyone actually enrolled at Western Governors, the biggest difference is simply its price. The average annual cost of tuition at for-profit universities is around $15,600. Tuition at Western Governors, meanwhile, costs a flat rate of just under $6,000 a year.


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