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Online Business Education - Interview with Western Governors University

Q & A with Western Governors University

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Can you start by telling us a little bit about Western Governors University?

WGU is a private, non-profit online university that was created by 19 western states governors and incorporated in 1997. It is supported by more than 20 leading corporations and foundations, including AT&T, Dell, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, HCA, HP, Microsoft, Quest, Simmons Media Group and Zions Bank. The first students enrolled in 1999. WGU, based in Salt Lake City, is the only accredited online university in the U.S. offering competency-based degree programs. WGU offers bachelor's and master's degrees in information technology, business, teacher education and health professions.

WGU is the only university to be accredited by four regional accrediting organizations (February 2003); WGU is now accredited under the Northwest Commission. It is also nationally accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC); and received NCATE Accreditation for 5 years in October 2006, becoming the first online university ever to receive this prestigious teacher accreditation.


Western Governors University uses a competency-based approach. How does this approach work?

WGU is the only university in the country that grants degrees based on demonstrated competency, measuring learning rather than time or class credits. Students must demonstrate their knowledge by passing assessment exams. If for example, a student has professional experience in a certain area, and that area is a required knowledge or domain set for the degree program, he or she may go ahead and take the exam for that subject matter---and they may pass without taking additional courses or further study on that subject because they prove their knowledge in passing the competency test. WGU was instrumental in creating the demonstration project for distance learning included in the 1998 Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, and WGU was the only institution named in that congressional legislation.

Because of the work of WGU, Congress opened up financial aid for distance learning for online institutions generally. Also, competency-based education programs, only available at WGU, were approved as eligible for federal financial aid. WGU also won competency-based education approval for VA benefits (GI bill), Department of Defense tuition assistance, and corporate tuition reimbursement programs.

WGU uses outstanding courses from other respected institutions and providers rather than creating and teaching our own courses. Instead of traditional teaching and research, our faculty members can focus strictly on students and can concentrate on enabling student success. External program councils ensure that our program designs are strong and valid, and that our competency assessments truly measure the competencies in terms of knowledge, process and performance. Our students are required to take secure assessments and we have established a network of 300-plus secure testing centers around the United States.


What kinds of programs do you offer through the WGU College of Business?

WGU currently offers 6 undergraduate degrees and 3 graduate degrees in the College of Business. While earning their Bachelor's, students can specialize in Business Management, Information Technology Management, Marketing Management, Human Resource Management, Finance or Accounting.

Our 3 graduate degrees consist of the MBA, the MBA with an Information Technology Management emphasis or the MBA with a Healthcare Management Emphasis.


How do your online programs differ from other online programs?

WGU's online programs are very unique for a number of reasons. First, they don't require students to spend a certain amount of hours in a classroom setting. We allow students to complete their coursework on their time.

Our tuition is also not based on the amount of credits you complete in a term. Our tuition is a flat-rate fee for 6 months. So no matter how many courses you can complete in 6 months, the price will remain the same.

Some of our programs also have built in industry certifications. For example, our MBA programs have the CMBA exam built into the curriculum. In order for a student to earn their MBA, they must pass the exam, which is a nationally recognized acknowledgement of business knowledge competence. Students in the Business degree with an emphasis in HR Management will also receive the PHR certification, which is the professional human resource certification.


Is it difficult to gain admission to your business programs?

In order to be admitted to our business programs, you must pass an admissions exam. For the MBA program we require 3 years of professional experience, so a resume demonstrating this must be submitted.


Financial aid is available?

Yes. WGU was selected by the U.S. Department of Education to be one of the first distance-learning institutions in the country to provide financial aid to online students. While financial aid at WGU is similar to that at most other colleges, some differences apply because we are online.


How can students determine whether or not WGU is right for them?

Students who succeed at WGU are students who are self-motivated and disciplined. Students can expect to devote 15-20 hours to their studies each week. Students that enjoy independent learning will do well at WGU.

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