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WGU initiative designed to lessen financial barriers

With millions of American workers facing the urgent need to reskill or upskill for a post-pandemic economy, nonprofit online Western Governors University announced the launch of its Equitable Access Initiative.

The initiative aims to help remove barriers that might otherwise keep people — especially those from historically underserved populations — from accessing higher education.

“This is an extraordinary effort to help individuals as they face challenging times,” said WGU Regional Vice President Rick Benbow, who oversees WGU Nevada. “We are striving for equal opportunity for Nevadans, and know these grants and our affordable, online higher education model are ideal for those seeking to earn quality degrees in high-demand career fields.”

As part of this effort, WGU’s Board of Trustees designated $6 million in funding, which will assist new and existing students through three key financial support mechanisms.

The WGU Resiliency Grant assists new students who are experiencing unforeseen financial struggles by offering them up to $4,000 that can be used for tuition, fees and instructional materials. The scholarship is frontloaded to cover $2,500 in the first six-month term and $750 for two subsequent terms, incentivizing students who already have some college credits to accelerate their degree path through the university’s competency-based education model.

The WGU Opportunity Grant supports new students who lack access to federal or state financial aid by offering them up to $10,000 (applied over four six-month terms) that can be used for tuition, fees and instructional materials. At $2,500 per term, the grant covers approximately 70% of the total cost of most degree programs for students who graduate within two years.

WGU’s Online Access Scholarship provides students who lack reliable broadband access with free high-speed internet service for the duration of their degree programs while also supplying them with refurbished laptops. The internet service is not restricted to a device, allowing students’ family members to use the Wi-Fi for essential functions, such as accessing health care and applying for jobs.

“At WGU, we believe that while talent is universal, access to opportunity is not,” WGU President Scott Pulsipher said. “That’s why we have made a commitment to increase access to education, making it possible for individuals to improve their lives and the lives of their families by earning a college degree that fits their life. The tools within WGU’s Equitable Access Initiative are key in helping students have access to education and thus access to opportunity.”

Tuition for most degree programs at WGU is $7,000 or less per year, and students are eligible to supplement tuition-based grants with the Online Access Scholarship, allowing them to earn degrees for little to no out-of-pocket costs in many cases.

“We’ve seen an increase in requests for financial support from those who want to earn a degree to better position themselves for career success as the economy and job markets improve but lack the means to pursue their academic goals because of common barriers, many of which are more prominent due to the pandemic,” WGU Director of Scholarships Amanda Savage said. “We are working with partners and potential funders to increase the support we can offer and to sustain the initiative as the lingering effects of the pandemic are felt by many.”

To learn more about WGU’s Equitable Access Initiative, visit wgu.edu/access

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