KENT, Wash., Aug. 18, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Western Governors University (WGU) is being lauded for reducing student debt and helping address a nationwide problem in higher education. The nonprofit university's Responsible Borrowing Initiatives, which to date have reduced student borrowing at WGU by $400 million nationally, 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 five percent, less than half the national average."
WGU Washington is the locally-based affiliate of WGU. The first legislatively-endorsed, online university in the state, it was established in 2011 to provide a low-cost, high-quality educational option for Washingtonians. Today, Washington is home to more WGU students than any other state in the country.
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 and 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 percent reduction. Debt at graduation for undergraduates has also decreased each year since the program's inception. In 2016, the average debt among WGU students 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 $6,000 per year 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 two and a half years, making the average cost for a bachelor's degree about $15,000.
About WGU Washington
WGU Washington was established by the State Legislature in 2011 in partnership with nationally recognized and accredited Western Governors University to expand access to higher education for Washington residents.
The state-endorsed, online university offers more than 50 bachelor's and master's degree programs in Business, Information Technology, Teacher Education and Health Professions, including Nursing. WGU Washington's competency-based learning model is designed to meet the needs of working adults by providing an affordable, flexible option for earning an accredited, respected college degree. It's non-profit and receives no money from the state.
Degrees are granted under the accreditation of Western Governors University, which is regionally accredited through the Northwest Commission on Colleges; Universities Teachers College programs are accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education; and nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education*.
The university has earned the support of more than 20 leading corporations and foundations including AT&T, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Lilly Endowment, HCA, Hewlett-Packard, Lumina Foundation, Microsoft, Oracle, SunGard Higher Education and Zions Bank.
* One Dupont Circle, NW, Suite 5380, Washington DC 20036, 202-877-6791
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SOURCE WGU Washington