BOISE - On Tuesday, June 15, Idaho Governor Brad Little signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Western Governors University (WGU) – a leading nonprofit, online university – to expand access to affordable degree programs for Idahoans who need additional education to thrive in the state’s evolving workforce.
The partnership supplements the learning opportunities available through Idaho’s public colleges and universities and is designed to target the estimated 165,000 Idahoans that have some college but no degree.
“My number one goal is to make Idaho the place where all can have the opportunity to thrive, and the reality is our employers desperately need skilled workers in many different fields, including health care, education cybersecurity, and manufacturing,” stated Governor Little. “Western Governors University has an important presence in Idaho, particularly in serving adult-learners, many of whom are working full-time while pursuing their education, are first-generation students, and live in rural Idaho. Deepening our state’s collaboration with WGU supports my broader efforts to create opportunity and prosperity across Idaho.”
In March, Governor Little and the Idaho State Board of Education recognized WGU through an administrative action that qualifies the university’s students for need-based financial assistance offered by the state. Idahoans who choose to attend WGU are now eligible to apply for the Adult Learner Opportunity Scholarship, the Idaho Opportunity Scholarship, the Idaho Gear UP Scholarship, the Idaho Post-Secondary Credit Scholarship, and the Idaho Advanced Opportunities Grant.
“WGU was established to expand accessible, affordable postsecondary options for learners across the country. As a founding state, Idaho has been an important supporter of WGU since our earliest days, and we’re especially grateful for the commitment to adult learners and historically underserved students shown by Governor Little and other stakeholders in the state,” WGU President Scott Pulsipher said. “This partnership will provide pathways to opportunities for many Idahoans who want to advance their careers and will also be a catalyst for workforce development in Idaho.”
With an average student age of 35 in Idaho, and with 70-percent of students employed while enrolled in degree programs – mostly full time – WGU will bolster Idaho’s efforts to support postsecondary learners. The university offers more than 60 workforce-aligned bachelor’s and master’s degree programs through its College of Information Technology, College of Business, Teachers College, and College of Health Professions (including nursing).
According to the MOU, the State of Idaho commits to supporting the partnership by enlisting relevant agencies, including the Idaho State Board of Education and the Idaho Workforce Development Council, to promote and collaborate with WGU, with a focus on targeting underserved populations such as dislocated workers, veterans, and rural residents. WGU will work with the community college systems in Idaho to provide seamless transfer and articulation of community college graduates into four-year degree programs at WGU, while also collaborating with employers and employer organizations in Idaho to meet workforce needs.
“My dream is to get my teaching license and have a classroom of my own, and WGU is helping make that a possibility,” said Ana Vargas, a WGU scholarship recipient and paraeducator from Idaho Falls. “I am so happy WGU and Idaho have formed this partnership. It acknowledges the quality of WGU degree programs, and means more first-generation, rural students can continue to live and work in their hometowns.”
In celebration of the WGU Idaho affiliate, WGU has established the WGU-Idaho Partnership Scholarship, which will support 100 students with up to $4,000 in annual financial aid. Students can learn more and apply at www.wgu.edu/idahoscholarship.