SALT LAKE CITY, Nov. 1, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As nontraditional students struggle with the high cost of college and staggering student debt, Western Governors University (WGU) continues to demonstrate that it is possible to earn a respected degree without excessive debt. WGU, where tuition of $6,000 per year for most programs has not increased since 2008, was presented with a WCET Outstanding Work (WOW) award for its Responsible Borrowing Initiatives.
These initiatives, implemented in 2013, have reduced student borrowing at WGU by 41%, a savings of $400 million in student borrowing. For more than a decade, the award has been presented by the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) to colleges, universities, and organizations who implement exceptionally creative, technology-based solutions to contemporary challenges in higher education.
Responsible borrowing at WGU focuses on helping students understand student loans and encouraging them to borrow only what they need. All students who apply for financial aid receive a personalized Financial Aid Plan, which recommends that students borrow only their "unmet direct costs"—tuition and fees minus any grants or scholarships. The personalized plan includes information about cost of attending WGU as well as links to financial aid tools and resources. In the three years since this program was implemented, 65% of borrowers accepted the recommendation to borrow less, and another 10% declined loans altogether. By simply providing useful information, WGU was able to significantly change student behavior and reduce borrowing.
This award is not the only evidence that WGU delivers high value to its students. Last month, the U.S. Department of Education announced that WGU's three-year default rate decreased again last year, to 4.8%, which is less than half the national average for all other U.S. universities of 11.3%.
"WGU should be proud of the fact that this simple process is dramatically changing student behavior," said Kara Monroe, Vice President for Academic Innovation and Support at Ivy Tech Community College, and chair of the WOW Awards committee. "The results have been staggering. This approach is helping students make informed decisions that are significantly reducing their student debt."
Earlier this year, WGU received an Exemplary Models Award from the American Association of University Administrators for its work in reducing student debt. More information about WGU's work of reducing student debt can be found at www.wgu.edu/responsibleborrowing.
Established in 1997 by 19 U.S. governors with a mission to expand access to high-quality, affordable higher education, online, nonprofit WGU now serves more than 74,000 students nationwide and has more than 70,000 graduates in all 50 states. Driving innovation as the nation's leading competency-based university, WGU has been recognized by the White House, state leaders, employers, and students as a model that works in postsecondary education. In less than 20 years, the university has become a leading influence in changing the lives of individuals and families, and preparing the workforce needed in today's rapidly evolving economy. WGU is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, has been named one of Fast Company's Most Innovative Companies, and was featured on NPR, NBC Nightly News, CNN, and in The New York Times. The university's 2015 Annual Report is now available online.
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SOURCE Western Governors University