With the support of Higher Education Chairs Senator Judith Zaffirini and Representative Dan Branch, Governor Rick Perry has announced the establishment of a subsidiary of Western Governors University (WGU) — WGU-Texas.  This will be a fully accredited, nationally recognized, nonprofit educational facility.
WGU-Texas will provide students a flexible yet prestigious alternative that they can afford when seeking higher education degrees.  Perry also inked a Memorandum of Understanding to further the state government’s hands-on support of this new school.  The governor is upbeat on the college’s potential, positive impact on the education of young Texans.
“Earning a college degree is one of the most effective ways for individuals to improve the quality of life for themselves and their families,” he 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 insure Texas has an equipped workforce to meet the needs of job creators.”
As an online university, WGU concentrates on students who are working adults, offering bachelor’s and masters’ degrees in specific fields such as  business, information technology, education and such healthcare areas as nursing.  Three-fourths of its students are lower-income, minority, first-generation or rural students. Receiving no state funding, WGU sustains itself on tuition of about $5780 per 12-month year.  Participating states started the college via a memorandum of understanding and a sum of $100,000 apiece in start-up funding.  WGU President Dr. Robert W. Mendenhall has high expectations for the college’s Texas branch.
“By establishing WGU-Texas, Governor Perry and the State of Texas are making quality higher education more accessible for working adults throughout the Lone Star State,” he said.  “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.”
Since WGU degrees are competency-based rather than determined by accumulated credit hours, students advance by proving through their schoolwork that they are absorbing the knowledge and abilities the curriculum seeks to instill.  This method is well-suited to older students who already possess specific skill sets when they enroll, and thus tend to graduate faster.  Military veterans also work well with this method because they can apply to their studies skills they picked up in the service.  Vets are also aided by the project because of the College Credit for Heroes Program (SB 1736) Perry previously signed into law.
Founded in 1997 WGU now has branches in 19 states, 25,000 students (1600 Texans) and is growing at an annual rate of 30%.  For more information on WGU and other state initiatives for adult students please visit www.gradtx.org.