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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The fastest growing university in America

What is the fastest growing university in the US? Probably one that you have never heard of: Western Governors University (WGU). They have about 23,000 full time students, up from 14,000 in June, 2009.

It is a non-profit, accredited, strictly online institution that is providing far better value in college education than the college establishment. They use technology to reduce college costs, while most colleges and universities have typically used technology as an excuse to increase costs and tuition.

You won’t find interesting (but impractical) majors where graduates rarely get a related job (like Sociology, Ethnomusicology, Modern Dance, Psychology). WGU sticks to their knitting with a few areas of study (Education, Business, Health Care and IT) which allows graduates to find jobs.

The cost is only $5,800 per 12 month period; for that a student can take as many classes as she can handle and finish. Once one completes the work and passes the exams, he can move on to the next course. On average, students complete their degrees in just 30 months at a total cost of less than $15,000 for a four-year degree.

The average student age is 36 and most of them have families and a full time job. It clearly takes more discipline to complete this kind of a program and so they have fewer students right out of high school.

Each student meets (online) with a mentor at least every other week, to confer about the course work, and also discuss how the material applies to the real world. Even the exams are taken from home via a clever online testing methodology.

WGU mentors don't get tenure that guarantees them a job, nor are they encouraged to publish academic papers or conduct research. And lo and behold they don’t have unaffordable public pensions and benefits packages that are out of line with the private sector. But the faculty by and large can work from their homes as well.

One Teacher’s College Graduate said: “I would have never been able to attend a university and follow my dreams if it wasn’t for WGU. I work full time and have three kids; online schooling was my only option if I wanted to stay involved in my childrens' lives.”

This is the kind of revolution we need from our college and university system. We need to drastically reduce the cost (not just slow down increases) and we need to remove subsidies for the study of fun, esoteric but impractical subjects like Greek, Art History, Gender Studies, and Recreation Management. My congratulations go to WGU.


Bobby said...

"And lo and behold they don’t have unaffordable public pensions and benefits packages that are out of line with the private sector."

I'm not quite sure why you consider public pensions unaffordable, yet make no mention of the private sector's outrageous bonus, golden parachutes and insider traded stock options. I like WGU and hope some day that our mentors do organize a union to get better benefits, including a pension. I hope some day the government redirects a few hundred billion dollars from the massively wasteful defense "entitlement" and divert towards institutions like WGU where at least you can see what you're getting for your money.

TahoeJohn said...

Bobby - the reason that public pensions are unaffordable is that politicians, unions and bureacrats never set aside enough money to meet their pension promises. I challenge you to find a public pension in America without unfunded liabilities.

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