By Cait Etherington April 22, 2018
Western Governors University (WGU), an online competency-based institution, continues to make inroads in higher education. A new Gallup study suggests that WGU is also doing an outstanding job meeting its students’ needs and preparing its students for rewarding careers.
WGU was established in 1997 by 19 U.S. governors with a mandate to expand access to high-quality and affordable higher education by making the most of emerging digital technologies. Over two decades later, the university serves 95,000 students across the United States and already has 103,000 graduates. Despite a few recent stumbles with federal authorities who have questioned whether all of the university’s courses meet federal standards, by and large, WGU has emerged as an exemplary model in the online higher education market. The recent appointment of accreditation expert, Dr. Deborah Eldridge, who will serve as VP of WGU’s Teachers College, also points to the institution’s growing interest in upholding the very highest possible standards.
In the 2018 report, Gallup examines WGU alumni outcomes with a focus on two key measures: workforce and life outcomes, which include employee engagement, well-being, as well as “emotional attachment to the university.”
Among the most promising findings in the study are those connected to employment and workplace engagement. As reported, “More than eight in 10 recent WGU graduates (83%) report that they are employed full time for an employer, easily exceeding the full-time employment rate of their comparison group peers.” The report further emphasizes, “The full-time employment rate of WGU graduates exceeds that of graduates nationally, graduates of public and private not-for-profit universities, and other nontraditional graduates by almost 20 percentage points, on average.” On the topic of workplace engagement, the Gallup study found, “Just over four in 10 recent WGU graduates (41%) are engaged at work, surpassing the workplace engagement of graduates in each of the comparison groups.”
Other key findings from the 2018 Western Governors University’s aluminic outcomes report include the following:
Given the positive workforce and well-being outcomes reported by graduates, what is WGU doing right? The report suggests that two experiences at WGU appear to be critical to the success of its graduates. The first is Western Governors University’s focus on meaningful mentorships and the second is the job relevance of its programs. Indeed, as reported, the percentage of graduates who had meaningful mentoring relationships is double that of graduates at public universities. In addition, 81% of WGU graduates maintain that they were able to apply their coursework in jobs or internships. By comparison, only 68% graduates nationally believe they learned something in their coursework that was relevant on the job.