SAN ANTONIO, Aug. 17, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Western Governors University (WGU) has been recognized for reducing student debt and for developing "an excellent solution to a common problem in higher education." The nonprofit university's Responsible Borrowing Initiatives, which to date have reduced student borrowing at WGU by $400 million, received the Exemplary Model Award at the American Association of University Administrators' (AAUA) annual conference held in San Antonio, Texas.
"WGU's innovation, along with its low tuition, has a positive impact on student finances during and after enrollment and addresses directly a central access problem in American higher education," said AAUA Awards Chairman Dr. Jerome Neuner. "Careful financial aid advising and new procedures at WGU have led to a 41 percent decrease in average student borrowing and a default rate of just 5 percent, less than half the national average."
Nationwide, student debt has surpassed $1.3 trillion. WGU is addressing the problem of ballooning debt by educating students about responsible borrowing. In 2013, WGU developed its Responsible Borrowing Initiatives to encourage students to borrow only what they need to complete their degrees, helping students make informed decisions to borrow wisely. Since launching the initiatives, average borrowing per WGU student (of those who take out loans) has decreased by $3,230 per year, a 41% reduction. Debt at graduation for undergraduates has also decreased each year since the program's inception. In 2016, the average (for those who took out loans) was $16,862, which is less than half the national average.
"WGU students have responded to our recommendations, and the outcomes are not only benefiting our students but also contributing to the solution of a national problem," said Bob Collins, WGU's Vice President of Financial Aid. "WGU continues to focus on providing an affordable education that leads to career success and helping our students borrow responsibly to pay for that education."
WGU's tuition, which has not increased since 2008, is about $3,000 per six-month term for most programs, regardless of the number of courses completed. WGU's innovative, competency-based learning model allows students to advance as soon as they demonstrate mastery of course materials, making it possible for many students to accelerate their progress toward a degree, saving both time and money. The average time to complete a bachelor's degree at WGU is about 2 ½ years, making the average cost for a bachelor's degree about $15,000.
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 70,000 students nationwide and has more than 65,000 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