Western Governors University

Utah, USA

Western Governors University

Western Governors University:

“We do things a bit differently”

“The principal mission of Western Governors University is to improve quality and expand access to post-secondary educational opportunities by providing a means for individuals to learn independent of time or place and to earn competency-based degrees and other credentials that are credible to both academic institutions and employers.”

Click HERE to find out more about Western Governors University’s online degree programs.

School’s History:

Utah governor, Mike Leavitt, came to a 1995 bipartisan western governors meeting with a vision. Leavitt saw the difficulties in the Western United States that many encountered in seeking a college or university education. He also understood the potential of distance learning to revolutionize higher education, making it more accessible and affordable for people at very different stages of life with widely varying responsibilities. Up to that point higher education was offered almost universally in brick and mortar classroom situations that required a great deal of time along with personal and employment schedules that allowed for class attendance. Leavitt thought that online technology would be the key to unlocking the benefits of higher education for more people than had been thought possible.

With the bipartisan support of Leavitt and 18 other western state governors, Western Governors University (WGU) was founded in 1995. Three aspects of WGU’s mission and vision stand out. The first is that WGU is entirely online. A second distinctive aspect is that, unlike many institutions of online higher education, WGU is non-profit. And, lastly, WGU is competency based, not test based. This aspect of WGU’s approach to education makes a WGU graduate desirable to potential employers because WGU students are evaluated on the basis of real life situations and scenarios, not merely class time and written exams. Another benefit of WGU’s competency based approach to evaluation is that it allows students to move on in their studies and advance their degree program as soon as the student is able to demonstrate competency in a given area.

In 1996 WGU was officially announced and in 1997 incorporated as a university with its headquarters in Park City, Utah. In 1999 associate degrees in arts and science commenced as well as a Master’s Degree in Learning & Technology. In 2000 WGU awarded its first graduate degree. In 2001 the Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems was launched. In 2003 the Teachers College was opened, and by 2004 enrollment had reached 2,000. Between 2004 and 2012, WGU saw massive growth and expansion, while being recognized as a top online university. Degrees in health sciences, business, nursing and many others were added. WGU centers were also established in many other states, including Washington, Indiana, Nevada, Missouri, Texas and Tennessee. Enrollment is currently over 77,000 students.


WGU maintains highest academic standards and is regionally accredited by the same organization that recognizes many of the largest universities in the western United States, including the University of Washington, University of Oregon, Gonzaga University, University of Utah, University of Idaho, and Brigham Young University.

  • WGU is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
  • WGU Teachers College is the first exclusively online university to receive accreditation for its degree programs that lead to teacher licensure from the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education.
  • WGU’s bachelor’s and master’s nursing degree programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
  • WGU’s Health Information Management program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education.

Online Programs:

WGU’s entirely online university comprises the four colleges of the College of Business, the College of Information Technology, the Teachers College, and the College of Health Professions. The College of Health Professions includes degrees in nursing. Through these four colleges WGU offers over 60 combined undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

  • WGU Teachers College is recognized as one of the very best online education options for aspiring teachers.

“The top program in the nation for secondary teachers is at Western Governors University, which had nearly perfect scores across the board and whose online training is accessible to any aspiring teacher in the nation. Primarily an online program, Western Governors University places staff in every state who carefully oversee the delivery of a strong student teaching experience,” National Council on Teacher Quality (2014).

  • WGU was named a Center of Excellence™ in Nursing Education by the National League of Nursing for 2015-2019 and partners with some of the largest healthcare providers in the U.S. such as HCA, Tenet, Cedars-Sinai Hospital, Kaiser Permanente and Catholic Health Initiatives.
  • WGU College of Information Technology is a Microsoft® IT Academy program member, and is able to offer a top notch technology curriculum, incorporating the latest industry recognized certifications (including CIW, CCNA, MCSA, OCP, and CompTIA).

Course Presentation and Flexibility:

From its inception WGU has been committed to developing and integrating the most advanced distance learning technology and teaching methods. WGU degree programs are fully interactive, and students have access to instructors and student portals through the latest social media platforms. Teaching and social media include:

  • Electronic textbooks
  • Web-based tutorials
  • Simulations
  • Videos
  • Webinars
  • Student learning communities and discussion forums

There is no required class time, and assessment is based upon real life competency. This gives the students the opportunity to bring their own life and work experience to their degree programs, which can be directly applied to WGU’s class evaluations. Practically speaking, as soon as a student is ready, he or she can simply pass a competency exam and not be saddled with prolonged class schedules. And, through WGU’s mentorship program each student will be assisted in laying out a unique academic schedule and be able to most quickly, economically and efficiently reach his or her educational goals.

WGU possesses an excellent faculty in each of its four colleges. WGU instructor-evaluators:

  • Are experts in their areas of evaluation with advanced degrees in their subject areas, including many with Ph.D. degrees and post-graduate training or certifications.
  • Review assignments objectively, applying extensive expertise to the evaluation process.
  • Participate in ongoing professional development to ensure high-quality, unbiased evaluations.

Not only are WGU professors highly accomplished and qualified, WGU seeks to ensure their students have access to their instructors in order to get much needed feedback so that they may achieve success in their studies.

  • Instructor Availability
    • A personal mentor works closely with every student in order to:
      • Provide information on programs, policies, and procedures.
      • Assess students’ strengths and development areas to help them develop a plan of study.
      • Provide feedback on assessments and recommend learning resources.
      • Help students to sustain motivation and maintain on-time progress to their degree.
      • Recommend appropriate student services.
      • Determine requirements waived by courses they transferred into your program.
      • Discuss courses one has already passed, and courses that still need to be completed.
      • Establish details of the student’s term (the amount of time he or she has to complete a required number of assessments).
      • Assess type, status, and associated learning resources.
      • Assist with required completion dates (deadlines students set within proper guidelines for completing assessments).
  • Teacher/Student Ratios
    • WGU has 2,186 full-time and 722 part-time faculty for their 77,000 students.

School Awards and Recognition:

WGU is widely recognized as one of the most innovative, soundest and productive online universities in the world. WGU offers a cost effective model of higher education that, because of the quality of its programs, promises excellent economic return on the time and money that students invest in their WGU degree. The following are a sampling of the awards and recognition WGU has earned since its inception in the 1990s.

  • United States Distance Learning Association: International Distance Learning Awards:
    • 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2008: 21st Century Award for Best Practices in Distance Learning, awarded in recognition for WGU’s achievements as the nation’s first competency-based online university and its success in expanding access to higher education for adults seeking bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
    • 2015: Outstanding Leadership by an Individual in the Field of Distance Learning, awarded to Dr. Jan Jones-Schenk, Chief Nursing Officer and National Director of WGU’s College of Health Professions.
    • 2011: Outstanding Leadership by an Individual in the Field of Distance Learning, awarded to Dr. Phillip Schmidt, Associate Provost, WGU Teachers College.
    • 2010: Outstanding Leadership by an Individual in the Field of Distance Learning, awarded to Dr. Robert Mendenhall, President of Western Governors University.
    • 2008: Outstanding Leadership by an Individual in the Field of Distance Learning, awarded to Dr. Janet Schnitz, the Former Provost of the WGU Teachers College.
  • University Research & Review: Best Value School Three Years Running
  • Teacher Prep Review 2014: the National Council on Teacher Quality recognized WGU as the #1 program in the country for secondary teacher programs.
  • Teacher Prep Review 2014: WGU’s degree programs for elementary education ranked 16th in the nation.
  • McGraw Prize in Education 2010: Awarded to Dr. Robert Mendenhall, President of WGU, for his outstanding work in post secondary education.

Testimonials and Additional Recognition:

  • President Obama: “Western Governors University is one of the innovators implementing promising practices that offer breakthroughs on cost, quality, or both.”
  • Bill Gates: “I’m impressed by the results in places like Western Governors University. Its low-cost online programs rely on competency-based progression, not class time or credit hours. It uses external assessments to evaluate student proficiency.”
  • Brad Smith, General Counsel and Executive Vice President, Microsoft: “WGU gives students the ability to really assemble the complete package, from the subject matter to the specific skills to the certification that gives employers confidence when they’re making a hiring decision.”
  • Ted Mitchell, U.S. Under Secretary of Education: “At WGU, students work at their own pace with the flexibility to adjust to life’s inevitable ups and downs. And while many traditional colleges still struggle to support non-traditional students, WGU has paired each student with an extraordinary mentor who offers support to help them succeed.”
  • Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education: “WGU is an affordable online, nonprofit institution that measures the success of its students—most of them working adults—not by credit hours but by demonstrated mastery of a subject, whether it is information technology, nursing, a field of business, or preparation to teach. While such programs are now the exception, I want them to be the norm.”
  • Fast Company 2013: One of the Most Innovative Companies of 2013
  • Time Magazine 2008: “Let’s not waste anyone’s time or money. You won’t find that phrase emblazoned on a T-shirt, but it’s essentially the motto of Western Governors University (WGU), a private online school that has worked hard to prove it is anything but a diploma mill.”
  • CNN 2012: “[WGU is] a school without boundaries—there aren’t any teachers, curriculums are personalized, and students can go at their own pace.”

Financial Aid and Scholarships:

Financial Aid and Scholarships available at WGU:

Federal Loans and Grants

  • Federal Pell Grant
  • Federal Iraq & Afghanistan Service Grant
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant
  • Federal TEACH Grant
  • Federal Work Study
  • Federal Direct Loans (subsidized and unsubsidized)
  • Federal Direct GRAD PLUS (Graduate loans)
  • Federal Direct PLUS (Parent Loans)

Military Benefits

  • Military tuition assistance
  • Employer tuition payments paid to the university
  • WGU Military Appreciation Scholarship: WGU has partnered with the National Military Family Association to offer active duty, veteran military personnel, and their spouses an opportunity to advance their education
  • WGU Salute To Veterans Scholarship: In honor of Veterans Day 2016, for retired military personnel, veterans, reservists, and military spouses and children


  • Breakthrough in HR Scholarship
  • Future Teacher Scholarship
  • ITT Transfer Scholarship
  • Mark Bonin Memorial Scholarship
  • New Kind of You Scholarship
  • WGU Alumni Master’s Scholarship
  • WGU Back-to-School Scholarship
  • WGU Excellence in Health Information Management Scholarship
  • WGU Future of IT Scholarship
  • WGU Women in Leadership Scholarship
  • ANPD Excellence in Nursing Education Scholarship
  • NEA Member Scholarship
  • Western Association of Food Chains Scholarship
  • WGU AmeriCorps Scholarship
  • WGU Community College Partner Scholarship
  • WGU Healthcare Partners Fund
  • WGU Institutional Partner Fund
  • WGU Leaders in Nonprofit Scholarship
  • WGU National Association of Community Colleges with Teacher Education Programs Scholarship
  • WGU Phi Theta Kappa Scholarship
  • WGU StraighterLine Scholarship

Corporate Reimbursement


The following table is based upon data from the National Center for Education Statistics combined with information taken from WGU’s Tuition webpage. The table compares the range of yearly tuition costs for 31 online schools, colleges and universities similar to WGU. Because WGU has a flat rate tuition, coupled with its competency based method of evaluation, students can potentially move more quickly through their degree programs than in comparable institutions and thus save money. The data collected shows that the cost of WGU instruction for full-time undergraduate students is much less than the average yearly cost across comparable institutions. According to the National Center for Education Statistics and WGU’s reported tuition rates, the average cost for full time undergraduate online study with the WGU is $6,070. Because of WGU’s unique tuition program, the yearly cost is actually lower than the lowest tuition as reported by the National Center for Education Statistics.


Career Advancement:

WGU provides career assistance and resources to graduates and students. Career & Professional Development Specialists assist students and graduates during studies and throughout their careers. The WGU Career & Professional Development Center provides resources on:

  • Resumes and cover letters
  • Interview preparation
  • Job boards
  • Occupational and industry research
  • Networking
  • Career exploration and self-assessment
  • Professional development