News Brief - 2/19/16
University’s growth bucks nationwide trend by better serving nontraditional and underserved students
ST. LOUIS As it celebrates its third anniversary, WGU Missouri has announced a 35 percent jump in year-over-year enrollment with 1,935 students currently enrolled. This growth comes at a time when overall college enrollment is down nationwide, including a 91 percent decline in students over the age of 24, according to a report by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC).
WGU Missouri’s unprecedented growth is being fueled by the fact that it is filling a critical need for both nontraditional students adults with a full-time job who have delayed earning their degrees and Missouri’s underserved population, which includes low-income students, minorities and first-generation college students.
“Nontraditional and underserved students who dream of earning their degrees are often sidelined by the cost and time required to complete school,” said Dr. Angie Besendorfer, chancellor. “In an age when many would-be students are choosing steady employment over earning a degree, there is a clear need for options allowing them to do both, and WGU Missouri is filling that need.”
WGU Missouri was established three years ago by Gov. Jay Nixon to provide an alternative to Missouri’s working adults aspiring to complete their college education. Its competency-based model allows adult students to take advantage of prior learning and experience to move quickly through material they already know so they can focus on what they still need to learn. The result is a quality education for less time and money, making WGU a perfect fit for nontraditional students.
WGU Missouri’s nontraditional student base includes:
- 87 percent over the age of 25
- 75 percent employed full time
In addition, 73 percent of current WGU Missouri students are considered to be “underserved” meaning they fall into one or more of four categories:
- rural (26 percent of students)
- low-income (32 percent of students)
- minority (13 percent of students)
- first-generation college students (42 percent)
Because of WGU Missouri’s focus on nontraditional students and underserved populations, it continually offers generous scholarships to further reduce costs. Missourians have been awarded $700,000 in scholarships to WGU Missouri and its parent university Western Governors University.
Also contributing to WGU Missouri’s success is the high rate of satisfaction shared by students in the WGU system, as revealed in a recent report by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). The survey, which is conducted annually, polled 315,000 students from 600 institutions in the U.S. and Canada including more-traditional online and brick-and-mortar schools asking them to rate their experiences. Students gave WGU the highest scores possible at levels well above the national average in the following areas:
- Quality of interactions with faculty 19 percentage points higher
- Quality of academic support 25 percentage points higher
- Would attend the same institution again 28 percentage points higher
- Overall rating of entire educational experience 19 percentage points higher