WGU President Robert Mendenhall recently won the McGraw Prize for Education for WGU’s “flexibility, accessibility and affordability,” reports Kathy Kristof in the Tacoma News Tribune.
WGU is designed for adults. The average student is 36 years old. Some 82 percent are low-income, minority, rural or the first in their family to earn a college degree.
Although the entire school is online, each student has a mentor who works essentially as a college counselor, helping manage the student’s course schedule and checking regularly on his or her progress. The course instructors hold webinars and online study sessions, and can be reached to help students having difficulty with their studies.
The mentors and instructors mostly work from their homes, keeping in contact with students online and over the phone.
WGU instructors aren’t tenured. “Instructors are evaluated based on how well their students do in class and whether their students are satisfied and progressing well in their programs,” writes Kristof.
Students move at their own pace, earning credit when they demonstrate competency. As a result, the average WGU graduate receives a BA in 2 1/2 years.
(Orleatha) Smith said her classes at WGU were challenging, but she completed one of her full-semester classes in a single week. Because she had been working in a related field for 13 years, she already knew almost everything being taught in the course. That allowed her to write the papers and take the tests for the course in record time.
“Instead of everybody coming to the same class and sitting there for the same period of time, we tailor education to the individual,” WGU’s Mendenhall said. “Why should you sit in a class for four months when you know 95 percent of the material?”
A nonprofit, WGU charges $2,800 per semester no matter how many units students take. The average graduate pays less than $15,000 for a four-year degree.