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Utah-Based Western Governors University Hits 20 Year Mark

Lee Hale
Western Governors University has nearly 82,000 students enrolled and has graduated 85,000 students since it opened 20 years ago.

Western Governors University is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The Salt Lake City-based online school enrolls nearly 82,000 students nationwide and aims to be the perfect fit for those who are giving college a second try.

WGUwas founded by former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt along with 18 other governors from primarily western states, hence the name. And the idea was to reach students who had completed a little college but stopped attending.


“There were many who were left out of the system because they couldn’t access it for a variety of reasons," says WGU President Scott Pulsipher. "Whether it was proximity to a campus, whether it was affordability, whether it was time.”


Average annual cost for WGU is $6,000, half of the national average. And while the graduation rate is only 41 percent, it’s higher than many online schools. Most likely because WGU doesn’t offer single classes or electives, students must choose a degree.


“Because we believe very much that a degree path is the path to an opportunity," says Pulsipher.


For the majority of WGU students those opportunities are found through nursing, teaching and business degrees. Of those who graduate, 87 percent are employed in their degree field and 93 percent say WGU was the right fit for them.


“Our measure of our outcomes is a happy, credible, employed graduate," says Pulsipher.


Pulsipher says WGU is earning a reputation as a school where those kinds of outcomes are realistic expectations.


Lee Hale began listening to KUER while he was teaching English at a Middle School in West Jordan (his one hour commute made for plenty of listening time). Inspired by what he heard he applied for the Kroc Fellowship at NPR headquarters in DC and to his surprise, he got it. Since then he has reported on topics ranging from TSA PreCheck to micro apartments in overcrowded cities to the various ways zoo animals stay cool in the summer heat. But, his primary focus has always been education and he returns to Utah to cover the same schools he was teaching in not long ago. Lee is a graduate of Brigham Young University and is also fascinated with the way religion intersects with the culture and communities of the Beehive State. He hopes to tell stories that accurately reflect the beliefs that Utahns hold dear.
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