A partnership between Indiana and an online university could help more Hoosier adults earn accredited degrees while balancing work and family, according to State Sen. Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso).
Gov. Mitch Daniels signed an executive order earlier this summer creating the first state branch of Western Governors University (WGU). The governor’s new push for WGU allows Hoosier students for the first time to use state scholarship money to enroll at WGU.
Charbonneau said Indiana's established colleges continue to complement their traditional classroom instruction with online courses and accelerated associate and bachelor's degrees. It is important Indiana’s higher education institutions continue to find affordable, alternative ways to educate more Hoosiers, he said.
“The Indiana Commission for Higher Education estimates nearly 1 million Hoosier adults are in need of further education or training,” Charbonneau said. “Western Governor’s University is not trying to compete with the state’s existing colleges and universities; rather it will complement them and help residents gain or complete the education they need, while also providing Indiana employers with the workforce necessary to remain competitive in the 21st century economy.”
“WGU Indiana will fill the clearest and most challenging gap remaining in our family of higher education opportunities, helping thousands of adult Hoosiers attain the college degrees they've wanted and needed, on a schedule they can manage, at a cost they can afford,” said Daniels, who was elected to the board of directors of WGU in January.
Charbonneau said the university – which currently enrolls 20,000 students across the nation – operates as a non-profit and offers an online, competency-based approach to education. Founded in 1997 with the support of former Indiana Gov. Frank O’Bannon and 18 western governors, WGU aims to expand access to higher education while creating a more educated workforce.
“In the current economic climate, many Hoosiers are looking for ways to learn new skills and improve their marketability to prospective employers,” Charbonneau said. “Hoosier adults with an online degree from Western Governors University may be a perfect fit in this global economy. This school can provide a student with a quality education at an estimated cost of $6,000 a year, while allowing them the flexibility to balance school with work and family commitments. A student can study and learn individually while receiving one-on-one guidance and support from a faculty mentor.”
Charbonneau said WGU offers fully accredited bachelor and master’s degrees in business, teacher education, information technology and health professions. The school’s online academic model focuses on individualized learning, allowing students to move quickly through areas where they have prior work or academic experience and concentrate on new subject matter.
While state and federal financial aid is available to students, WGU Indiana is not directly supported by Hoosier tax dollars. Charbonneau said the university is being established with private dollars from the Indiana-based Lumina Foundation for Education and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and will be self-sustained through student tuition.
Constituents can find more information at www.indiana.wgu.edu.