Michael O. Leavitt School of Health will accelerate health care reform, address workforce gaps, and improve equity and public health in the U.S.

Western Governors University (WGU) announced that its Board of Directors has renamed the College of Health Professions as the Michael O. Leavitt School of Health (Leavitt School of Health) in recognition of the leadership and contributions of Michael O. Leavitt, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, former Utah governor, and founding member of WGU. The school is also launching long-term plans to tackle national workforce gaps in healthcare and solve community health crises at the local level.

Combined, these efforts will allow WGU to expand its support of workforce equity and health care at scale across the United States.

“Transformation of the U.S. health care industry will require scalable and successful educational solutions,” said Scott Pulsipher, WGU’s president. “The Leavitt School of Health is already one of the nation’s leading institutions for nursing education. Based upon the incredible success to date and proven ability to offer programs with some of the highest licensure rates of any in the country, now it is uniquely positioned to expand access to underserved populations through our national reach and local impact.”

The School’s new design aims to have the same impact on other areas of health care education that it has had in nursing. In 2021, 17.2% of all RN to BSN graduates nationally—registered nurses earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing—were WGU-educated. Over the next five years, the school plans to add new degree and credentialed programs.

“Tackling the shortage of qualified health care workers, diversifying the health care workforce, and equipping new and existing health professionals with competencies to lead in their field are initiatives that will be driven by WGU’s competency-based curriculum and ability to educate students at scale,” said Michael O. Leavitt. “We will meet both adult learner and industry needs and will create the opportunity for career enhancement and knowledge building.”

The Leavitt School of Health—formerly the College of Health Professions—launched in 2006 shortly after Leavitt was appointed as Secretary of Health. WGU had proven with its Teachers College that competency-based, online education could work with high-touch professions and knew it could contribute to the record shortages of critical nursing and medical staff professions facing the nation. Bolstered by its first corporate partner, Hospital Corporation of America (HCA Healthcare), the School of Health has experienced tremendous growth in graduates, enrollment, and partnerships with hospitals and health care organizations across the U.S.

To date, more than 98,500 degrees—including non-nursing programs, such as health informatics and health information management—have been awarded to students in all 50 states. To assess the impact it has had on nursing graduates—now more than 84,000—and the contributions those nurses have made in their communities, WGU tapped the Utah Foundation to conduct a research brief.

Among the findings, the Utah Foundation estimates that of the 84,390 graduates since 2009, 79,181 are still active in the nursing industry, and these nurses support an additional 91,713 jobs required to meet the nursing supply chain and support the nurses’ lifestyles as they spend their income in local communities. In terms of income, WGU nursing graduates will have earned an estimated $6.7 billion in 2022, and their jobs and income are associated with an estimated $5.6 billion in additional supporting jobs. In total, WGU’s nursing graduates are linked to 170,000 jobs and $12 billion in personal income.

“WGU exists to expand pathways to opportunity, and the research brief quantifies what those opportunities mean to thousands of nurses and the communities to which they contribute,” said Pulsipher. “In addition to the workforce and economic impact we see in the brief, countless patients and their families have benefited from a high quality of care provided by WGU-educated nurses, including in many rural and underserved areas of the country.”

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, WGU was founded in 1997 by a bipartisan group of 19 governors, including then-Governor Michael O. Leavitt. It was established to open new doors of opportunity to higher education through harnessing the power of the internet and allowing students to advance in their learning when they demonstrate competency. Today, WGU is the largest nonprofit university in the country, currently serving more than 130,000 students with nearly 285,000 graduates. The Leavitt School of Health is currently educating more than 27,000 students with more than 98,500 alumni.

See former President George W. Bush congratulatory message to former Gov. Mike Leavitt here.

See former Gov. Mike Leavitt tribute video here.

Review Utah Foundation’s economic impact brief here.