SALT LAKE CITY--(BUSINESS WIRE)--With millions of American workers facing the urgent need to reskill or upskill for a post-pandemic economy, nonprofit online Western Governors University (WGU) announced today the launch of its Equitable Access Initiative. The initiative aims to help remove barriers that might otherwise keep people—especially those from historically underserved populations—from accessing higher education, such as job loss, changes in childcare and schooling, health concerns, and overall uncertainty from the pandemic.
As part of this effort, WGU’s Board of Trustees designated $6 million in funding, which will assist new and existing students through three key financial support mechanisms:
- The WGU Resiliency Grant assists new students who are experiencing unforeseen financial struggles by offering them up to $4,000 that can be used for tuition, fees, and instructional materials to allow them to pursue their academic goals. The scholarship is frontloaded to cover $2,500 in the first six-month term and $750 for two subsequent terms—incentivizing students who already have some college credits to accelerate their degree path through the university’s competency-based education model.
- The WGU Opportunity Grant supports new students who lack access to federal or state financial aid by offering them up to $10,000 (applied over four six-month terms) that can be used for tuition, fees, and instructional materials. At $2,500 per term, the grant covers approximately 70 percent of the total cost of most degree programs for students who graduate in two years or less.
- WGU’s Online Access Scholarship provides students who lack reliable broadband access with free high-speed internet service for the duration of their degree programs while also supplying them with refurbished laptops. The internet service is not restricted to a device, allowing students’ family members to use the Wi-Fi for essential functions, such as accessing healthcare and applying for jobs.
“At WGU, we believe that while talent is universal, access to opportunity is not. That’s why we have made a commitment to increase access to education, making it possible for individuals to improve their lives and the lives of their families by earning a college degree that fits their life,” said Scott Pulsipher, President of WGU. “The tools within WGU’s Equitable Access Initiative are key in helping students have access to education, and thus access to opportunity.”
Tuition for most degree programs at WGU is $7,000 or less per year, and students are eligible to supplement tuition-based grants with the Online Access Scholarship, allowing them to earn degrees for little to no out-of-pocket costs in many cases.
“We’ve seen an increase in requests for financial support from those who want to earn a degree to better position themselves for career success as the economy and jobs markets improve but lack the means to pursue their academic goals because of common barriers—many of which are more prominent due to the pandemic,” said Amanda Savage, Director of Scholarships for WGU. “We are working with partners and potential funders to increase the support we can offer and to sustain the initiative as the lingering effects of the pandemic are felt by many.”
To learn more about WGU’s Equitable Access Initiative, please visit wgu.edu/access.
Established in 1997 by 19 U.S. governors with a mission to expand access to high-quality, affordable higher education, online, nonprofit WGU now serves more than 129,000 students nationwide and has more than 214,000 graduates in all 50 states. Driving innovation as the nation’s leading competency-based university, WGU has been recognized by the White House, state leaders, employers, and students as a model that works in postsecondary education. In just 24 years, the university has become a leading influence in changing the lives of individuals and families, and preparing the workforce needed in today’s rapidly evolving economy. WGU is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, has been named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies, and has been featured on NPR, NBC Nightly News, CNN, and in The New York Times. Learn more at www.wgu.edu.