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Competency-Based Education

Western Governors Addresses College Readiness Gap with New Academy

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Today, Western Governors University is launching a new competency-based series of courses through an independent entity. According to the institution, the courses to be offered through WGU Academy, as it's called, are intended for students who need a little extra help before they're ready for college. WGU said it hopes to offer the services of the new academy to other institutions as a way to help them address the college readiness gap as well. The academy will operate as an independent unit.

Academy courses will be delivered in the same online, competency-based format that the university follows. Students will enroll in programs of two or more college-level courses, which will most often consist of a writing course and at least one other course in math, general education or an introductory-level class focused on a specific degree area.

The academy will also offer the Program for Academic and Career Advancement (PACA), a social and emotional learning course modeled on a similar one in use by WGU. This offers student support in the form of group sessions, peer interaction and one-to-one coaching, to help participants build their confidence and college persistence.

Aside from PACA, the courses completed will transfer to WGU degree programs, encompassing business, teaching, IT and health majors. And those who finish the academy will have guaranteed admission to WGU.

Initially, academy students will pay a monthly fee of $150. The university reported that it expected most students to complete their academy program for less than $500. WGU, on the other hand, charges a flat rate for six months of access to its degree programs.

"Higher education remains the surest pathway to opportunity and social mobility, but for many, lack of adequate preparation puts a college degree out of reach," said WGU President Scott Pulsipher, in a statement. "At WGU, where the average student age is 36 and more than 70 percent of our students are part of at least one underserved population, we have learned how to create flexible, personalized learning experiences that lead to great outcomes. WGU Academy will provide courses and coaching that strengthen academic and noncognitive competencies to prepare these individuals for the learning demands of college."

Although students intending to enroll at WGU are the first target for the academy, the new organization hopes to set up partnerships with other institutions "to scale its impact," the university stated. The goal is to reach many more students who need foundational support that will help them succeed in their college careers.

The academy is headed by Patrick Partridge, who has led WGU's own successful student outreach, enrollment and admissions operations for 15 years.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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