WGU Takes on College-Readiness Gap with Launch of WGU Academy

By April 10, 2019 Education, Press Release

New entity will leverage WGU’s success in student support to prepare students for college studies

The nonprofit Western Governors University (WGU) today announced the creation of WGU Academy, an independent operating unit established to help solve the growing college-readiness gap. WGU Academy’s courses and programs will provide aspiring students with an affordable, low-risk onramp that prepares them for college success either at WGU or at other institutions.

“This is a remarkable new effort that will help numerous individuals who need a boost as they seek college degrees,” said WGU Nevada Chancellor Spencer Stewart. “As the characteristics of today’s college students have changed, so must the means of serving them.”

While nearly 70 percent of high school graduates enroll in college, 26 percent drop out in their first year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. And among the 20 million individuals enrolled, according to Higher Learning Advocates, more than 41 percent are over 25 years old, 55 percent are financially independent, and 26 percent are parents. Additionally, there are 80 million adults who need access to post-secondary credentials to be readied for the future of work.

WGU Academy will leverage WGU’s success in serving contemporary students, especially in underserved populations, and provide personalized learning onramps that improve individuals’ progress, persistence, and attainment in their college-level programs.

“Higher education remains the surest pathway to opportunity and social mobility, but for many, lack of adequate preparation puts a college degree out of reach,” said WGU President Scott Pulsipher. “At WGU, where the average student age is 36 and more than 70 percent of our students are part of at least one underserved population, we have learned how to create flexible, personalized learning experiences that lead to great outcomes. WGU Academy will provide courses and coaching that strengthen academic and noncognitive competencies to prepare these individuals for the learning demands of college.”

WGU Academy courses will be delivered in an online, competency-based format similar to the WGU learning model. Students will enroll in customized programs of two or more college-level courses that typically include a writing course and one or more courses in math, general education, or introductory-level classes focused on desired degree paths.

In addition to college-level courses, WGU Academy offers the Program for Academic and Career Advancement (PACA). Modeled on a nationally recognized social and emotional learning course used by WGU for several years, the course provides group sessions, peer interaction, and one-to-one coaching to build confidence and college persistence.

While WGU Academy’s initial startup will focus on prospective students who are not yet ready for admission to WGU, the organization intends to seek partnerships with other institutions and organizations to scale its impact. The goal is to serve hundreds of thousands of students who need foundational college-readiness competencies and empower them with a greater chance for success upon enrollment—whether at WGU or at another college or university.

In the initial program aligned to WGU, students who attend WGU Academy will pay a monthly fee rather than committing to a full term of tuition. With an expected median completion time of three months, most students will complete their Academy program for less than $500. Initial enrollment in WGU Academy will begin May 1, 2019.

WGU Academy is led by Patrick G. Partridge, who serves as the organization’s president. Partridge joined WGU and led the university’s successful student outreach, enrollment, and admissions operations for more than 15 years.

“College readiness—or the lack of it—is one of the primary barriers to opportunity for many Americans, particularly those who are part of underserved or disadvantaged populations,” said Partridge. “It is estimated that U.S. colleges spend $7 billion a year on remediation programs, with nearly half of incoming students at four-year public institutions enrolling in at least one remedial course. WGU Academy will provide an affordable—and scalable—solution by closing the gap in college readiness.”