FORT MILL, S.C. — Nonprofit online Western Governors University (WGU) has announced the launch of the Equitable Access Initiative, which encompasses several grant and scholarship programs. The initiative aims to help remove barriers – such as job loss, changes in childcare and schooling, health concerns, and overall uncertainty from the pandemic – that might otherwise keep South Carolinians, especially those from historically underserved populations, from accessing higher education.
As part of this effort, WGU has designated $6 million in funding, which will assist new and existing students through three key financial-support mechanisms:
• The WGU Resiliency Grant assists new students who are experiencing unforeseen financial struggles by offering them up to $4,000 that can be used for tuition, fees, and instructional materials to allow them to pursue their academic goals. The scholarship is frontloaded to cover $2,500 in the first six-month term and $750 for two subsequent terms — incentivizing students who already have some college credits to accelerate their degree path through the university’s competency-based education model.
• WGU’s Online Access Scholarship provides students who lack reliable broadband access with free high-speed internet service for the duration of their degree programs, while also supplying them with refurbished laptops. The internet service is not restricted to a device, allowing students’ family members to use the Wi-Fi for essential functions, such as accessing healthcare and applying for jobs.
• The WGU Opportunity Grant supports new students who lack access to federal or state financial aid by offering them up to $10,000 (applied over four six-month terms) that can be used for tuition, fees, and instructional materials. At $2,500 per term, the grant covers approximately 70 percent of the total cost of most degree programs for students who graduate in two years or less.
“WGU believes that while talent is universal, access to opportunity is not,” said Kimberly Estep, Vice President of the Southeast Region for Western Governors University. “That’s why we have made a commitment to increase access to education, making it possible for individuals to improve their lives and the lives of their families by earning a college degree in a high-demand field.”
Designed for working adults, WGU offers an asynchronous, competency-based model that allows students to log in and access coursework at a time convenient for them, and to accelerate at their own pace. WGU offers more than 60 bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business, K-12 teacher education, information technology, and health professions, including nursing. More than 2,200 South Carolinians are currently enrolled in WGU.
Tuition for most degree programs at WGU is $7,000 or less per year, and students are eligible to supplement tuition-based grants with the Online Access Scholarship, allowing them to earn degrees for little to no out-of-pocket costs in many cases.
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