Western Governors University is an innovator in technology-driven distance education and the pioneer of a competency-based learning model that is reinventing higher education for the 21st Century. Nonprofit and student-centric, WGU has become one of the nation’s largest universities, serving more than 115,000 full-time students and 135,000 alumni. It offers more than 60 degree programs in business, IT, K–12 education, and healthcare, including nursing.


Pioneering New Models

Since its founding in 1997, WGU has been disrupting the higher education market by introducing innovations and then proving they work. Competency-based education—which measures learning, not time, eschewing the credit hour for measures of demonstrated mastery instead—opened the doors of higher education to working adult students whose work and personal lives simply couldn’t accommodate a traditional time-based postsecondary education.

WGU was created by a bipartisan group of U.S. governors who saw in their economies a greater need than ever for workers with college degrees, while also noting that their workforces were less and less able to access higher education amid the pressures of a changing world. Competency-based education, coupled with the emerging promise of internet technology, formed the core of WGU’s new student-centered model.

WGU’s faculty live and breathe a culture of student obsession.

Conceived of as mentors and instructors, their role is entirely focused on fostering student success. Faculty members serve in disaggregated roles, with Program Mentors who instruct and guide from enrollment through graduation at the program level, Course Instructors who provide subject-matter support and instruction at the course level, and other types of faculty who focus on curriculum development, assessment development, evaluation, and other specialties that are traditionally all combined within an individual faculty member or team. The result has been that every faculty member can focus on his or her unique role in every student’s education—and students describe it as a game-changer. Today, WGU continues to develop and implement innovations that support its mission to improve quality and relevance, expand access, and optimize student outcomes.

The 2018 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) found that 74% of WGU students rated the quality of their interactions with faculty as good or excellent, compared with just 55% at the 511 U.S. and Canadian institutions represented in the NSSE research.


WGU works. And it’s constantly measuring its outcomes to make sure it keeps working for students. Ongoing data collection tracks a host of key performance indicators, all of which are designed to ensure the university is serving its students and alumni with the highest quality education and service—and that its graduates are contributing as participants in a vibrant, thriving, evolving workforce.

In 2018

  • 91% of WGU graduates reported their education was worth the cost (Gallup).
  • 87% of WGU graduates were employed in their degree fields (Harris Poll).
  • 97% of employers who hired WGU graduates said those employees met or exceeded their expectations (Harris Poll).
  • The average annual income increase for alumni with two years of graduation was $12,600—an increase that takes graduates of other universities nationwide, on average, four years to achieve (Harris Poll).
  • 71% of WGU students were from one or more traditionally underserved population—ethnic minority, rural, low-income, and/or first-generation college students. 12% of WGU’s student body was military-affiliated—active-duty, veteran, or military dependent.
  • WGU’s three-year student loan default rate was only 4.1%—less than half the national average of 10.8% (U.S. Department of Education). This rate is a good measure of ROI, indicating both an affordable tuition that necessitates less borrowing and good post-graduation employment outcomes that enable loan payback.