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Friday, February 3, 2023

W G Who?

Don’t go looking for the 2012 football schedule for Western Governors University. There is no football team at WGU, or school mascot. There’s not even a campus or classrooms.

While it may be ‘W G Who?’ to many people, it’s the college of choice for 30,000 students across the country who are now enrolled in the online, nonprofit institution.

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels touts WGU Indiana in television commercials, calling it “Indiana’s eighth state university.” Indiana has been part of WGU since 1997 when Frank O’Bannon and 18 other governors, primarily from western states, created the online college so that working adults could earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree at their own pace — and a low cost. The idea sounded good and has worked well in some regions, but in 2010, Indiana had a paltry 275 students enrolled in WGU, much less than the number of Hoosiers enrolled in for-profit online colleges such as the University of Phoenix. So Daniels mixed together one part marketing skill and one part financial incentive to create WGU Indiana. His TV commercials put the new ‘WGU Indiana’ name in front of the public, and his mandate to allow Indiana residents to use their state-funded financial aid to attend WGU made the offer more of a bargain. The result is that more than 2,500 Hoosiers now are enrolled in WGU Indiana, where students can earn degrees through the WGU Teachers College, College of Business, College of Information Technology, or the College of Health Professions. The cost is approximately $3,000 for each six-month term. For the average student, five terms are necessary for graduation.

“Online education is a good fit for a lot of people; traditional education is a good fit for a lot of people,” says WGU Indiana Chancellor Allison Barber. “The best thing is, people have more choices now. The average age of our students is 37, so we are meeting a specific need.”

Indiana ranks a dismal 42nd in the number of adults with a bachelor’s degree, according to Inside Higher Ed. If WGU Indiana can improve that ranking, its mission will be accomplished. Maybe then it can start planning to suit up a football team.

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