Gates Foundation Awards $1.2 Million to Study Effectiveness of Online Degree Program for Low-Income Students
For more than a decade, Western Governors University has offered students programs that address their needs: flexible online courses of study, with personalized attention by a faculty mentor, and a program that enables students to advance based on what they know, not how much time they've spent in a classroom. The foundation's grant will help WGU research the effectiveness of its programs for low-income young adults with the goal of clarifying what role a competency-based online university can play in boosting completion rates for these students.
The study will extend through September of 2010, and will focus on:
* The effectiveness of the WGU academic model for low-income students ages 18-26;
* Interventions that improve the success and graduation rates for these students; and
* Federal and state advocacy efforts that address issues surrounding technology-delivered, competency-based education.
The results of this research will immediately drive instructional intervention strategies at WGU.
The WGU study will also track students into the workplace after they complete their degrees to determine how effective their education was in helping them obtain and hold a job.
With the goal of getting more young people to and through college, the Gates Foundation's Postsecondary Success initiative aims to double the number of low-income students who earn a postsecondary degree or credential with genuine value in the workplace by age 26. Since 2000, the foundation has invested nearly $4 billion in grants in scholarships to improve opportunity in the United States by improving schools, raising college-ready graduation rates, and increasing college completion rates.
"In the United States today, there are millions of young adults who have the ability and desire to continue their education past high school. However, they are stalled by limited access to affordable, quality options and competing demands for their time and energy," said Hilary Pennington, the director of Special Initiatives for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "WGU's programs, which allow students to work full-time while they earn their degrees, offer a practical way to complete a quality college education. We look forward to working with the university to find ways to dramatically improve college completion rates for young, low-income students."