Arizona students could obtain self-paced degree through Ducey agreement
PHOENIX — One of former Gov. Doug Ducey’s final acts in office could give hundreds of thousands of local students a chance at higher education.
Ducey signed a memorandum of understanding with Western Governors University, opening the door for an Arizona chapter and for an estimated 600,000 adults to get a degree.
WGU is described as a competency-based university, meaning students can study on their own schedule with no required login or class times, according to Rick Benbow, regional vice president of the university. Students can also set their own learning pace and take assessments when they’re ready.
The online university also allows students to use their prior education or training to complete their degree.
“As you progress through the coursework and material, when you feel that you can demonstrate mastery of the skills and competency you can simply contact your program mentor and have a discussion and schedule to take the final,” Benbow said.
He added the set up of traditional universities doesn’t always work for some students, but WGU could be set up better to serve their needs.
“Our focus is really on adult learners. Those students who have some college and no degree, but also underserved students,” Benbow said. “Seventy percent of our student population comes from one or more underserved backgrounds. They’re first-generation college students, low-income students, students of color and also rural residents.”
Benbow believes Arizonans with prior commitments will benefit most from the agreement.
“Those individuals who have family obligations. They have a family to take care of or a loved one to take care of and are working full-time and just can’t find the time to maybe pursue their higher education endeavors,” Benbow said.
The university provides degrees in high demand jobs such as nursing, IT, education and business.
“The online competency-based model I think offers an affordable and flexible way for those individuals to upskill and reskill and again remain competitive in a tight labor market in which companies are looking for the latest and greatest in skills,” Benbow said.
According to Benbow, the agreement allows students who attend WGU to qualify for state aid.
“Currently our students are eligible for state aid through the Arizona LEAP program and were hoping that this agreement expands those efforts for those working adults, for those veterans, for those first generation college student,” he said.
To learn more about WGU, visit online.