As a business professional, you are aware that you are in a position of continual learning, where what you knew yesterday is constantly being reshaped with new information based on more developments in the marketplace. As a result, many professionals take it upon themselves to acquire a business degree, be it solely an undergraduate degree or a graduate degree as well. But should you decide to journey down this path, which institution should you choose? After all, a business degree can range from $50,000 to $200,000 depending upon the institution chosen, along with the lost opportunity time.
There’s an alternative, though, that is quickly becoming the preferred option for many professionals across the country. Western Governors University (WGU) offers a quality, credible, and praised education opportunity at a fraction of the cost of the typical business degree.
Overview Of WGU
WGU was created in 1997 after a meeting in 1995 of the Western Governors Association. The effort was led by former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt (R) and former Wyoming Governor Jim Geringer (R). WGU is regionally accredited through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, providing a competency-based education, which measures what a student knows rather than how long they sat in a classroom. One of the main benefits of competency-based education, is that if you are already familiar with the particulars of a course, you can go test out of the subject, rather than spend time going through the entire series of course materials.
WGU utilizes faculty members, subject matter experts, and other program council to develop courses along with mapping out specific competencies that are necessary to be considered an “expert” in a particular course topic. For each course, students use online textbooks, webinars, simulations, and other course materials to study the course, then once they feel they are ready, they complete performance- and objective-based assessments to test out of the subjects. Each course has a course instructor that holds a PhD in the subject and works with students through leading discussion groups and other instructional procedures.
In addition to a course instructor for each course, the WGU student will also have a program mentor, all of which hold a master’s degree with relevant industry professional experience, who serve as the student’s aid, motivator and coach as they progress through their WGU degree plan.
WGU’s Business Degrees
WGU’s College of Business offers six undergraduate degree options: a B.S. in business, accounting, health care, human resources, marketing, or IT management. Tuition and fees are set at a flat rate of $3,335 (per Feb 2018) per six-month term, allowing students to take as many courses as they can handle during the six-month period.
The school also offers six graduate degrees, including three MBA options in general management, health care management, or IT; and three M.S. options in accounting, management/leadership and integrated health care management. Tuition and fees are also set at a flat rate of $3,895 (per Feb 2018) per six-month term.
A Look Inside WGU
I recently reached out to Andy Shelton, who has been a program mentor in WGU’s Business College since September 2009 and has been recognized for excellence in mentoring. I wanted to speak to him about developments related to WGU.
What do you like most about working at WGU and being a mentor? Approximately, how many students have you mentored since starting with WGU?
Shelton: WGU is a great institution and a great place to work. Over the last eight years, I’ve worked with hundreds of students. Each one has a unique story and purpose for being here. I love that I can participate in their journey. The students do the hard work but I enjoy clearing the path.
As a mentor with the WGU Business College, what are things that you like the most about the Business College and things that you would like to see improved?
I like that we are teaching students real skills that make them more valuable in the workforce. Our instructors offer students a lot of support in a lot of different ways. Our product development department is constantly updating our courses and I hope to see that continue. We have also done a lot over the last few years to simplify our courses and make them more intuitive. We have made some great progress in this regard, but I think there is still room for improvement.
So with various business professionals seeking to earn a business degree, what are some of the reasons they should look at WGU first, before looking at other options in state colleges or even the Ivy League?
Flexibility is key for busy professionals. At WGU, you set your schedule. Our tuition is also dramatically more affordable than most other options and if you can be consistent with your study routine, you can accelerate through the program leading to early graduation along with cost savings. Finally, student success drives everything we do. This obsession leads to very high levels of individualized student support.
Finally, what do you think is the true future for business college education? Do you think competency-based programs will continue to grow, expand, and be in demand, or will their popularity phase out and traditional, high-cost educational delivery still be seen as the primary option?
Andy Shelton: Students shape the future of education by “voting” with their dollars. We have been growing at a very high rate, year after year. Most traditional colleges can’t make the same claim right now. They will continue to vote for us in the future for the same reasons they are voting for us now. Their needs (flexibility and affordability) will not change.
This article was originally written on May 30, 2018 and updated on January 31, 2021.