Fifteen years ago, bemoaning the high cost of higher education, the governors of 19 Western states decided to start a nonprofit online institution to help meet their need for a trained work force. The result, Western Governors University, offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in education, business, the health professions and information technology. Everything is online except for student teaching and some nursing requirements.
Most of its 25,000 students are over 25, and have previously earned some college credits.
Instead of being required to spend a certain number of hours to earn a certain sequence of credits, students at Western Governors must show “competency” through assignments and proctored exams.
Marie Hermetz, who paid Western Governors about $9,000 to earn her master’s degree in health care management, said she heard about the program on the news and switched from one that would have cost up to $40,000.