WGU Tennessee – Featured Member of July
Written by: Alex Curtis | Posted Jul 9, 2018

We’re excited to welcome WGU Tennessee as July 2018’s Featured Member of the Month.

We had a chance to ask Dr. Kimberly Estep, Chancellor, WGU Tennessee – a few questions to learn more about the organization ahead of NashCocktail.

What is WGU Tennessee’s mission?

The mission and vision of WGU Tennessee is to improve quality and expand access to post-secondary educational opportunities by providing a means for individuals to learn independent of time or place and to earn competency-based degrees and other credentials that are credible to both academic institutions and employers.

What sets WGU Tennessee apart from other tech educational institutions?

In 2013 Governor Bill Haslam, the Tennessee General Assembly, and Western Governors University (WGU) came together to create WGU Tennessee, a private, online, nonprofit university established to expand access to higher education for working Tennesseans. WGU Tennessee offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees under WGU’s regional accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

WGU Tennessee offers more than 60 competency-based undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the high-demand fields of information technology, business, K–12 education, and healthcare (including nursing). Most courses can be completed anytime and anywhere students have an internet connection, making it possible for working adults to earn a degree while maintaining their current work and family commitments. Additionally, WGU Tennessee charges tuition at a low, flat rate—about half of what students pay at other universities.

WGU Tennessee was established specifically to support Gov. Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative, which seeks to equip 55% of Tennesseans with postsecondary degrees by 2025. The university provides an alternative way—through technology-based learning—to meet the education needs of Tennessee’s working adult population as well as rural, minority, and other underserved groups. These populations are critical to the success of Drive to 55, as more than 900,000 Tennesseans have some college experience but no degree.

As a nonprofit organization, WGU Tennessee strives to keep tuition affordable. For a flat rate of approximately $6,500 per year, students take as many courses as they can complete per six-month term. On average, WGU Tennessee students complete their bachelor’s degrees in 27 months, and master’s degrees in 19 months.

A large part of WGU Tennessee’s early success can be attributed to partner organizations in Tennessee that worked closely with the university to help WGU better understand workforce needs and to develop relevant, applicable curricula. WGU has established partnerships with more than 50 corporate and nonprofit organizations across the state, including all 13 community colleges.

Data shows us that our partners, and the WGU Tennessee graduates who work for them, are very satisfied with the results. According to a 2016 Harris Poll, 87% of WGU graduates are employed in their degree field. A 2017 Harris Poll shows that 97% of employers say they would hire another WGU graduate, and 98% of employers say WGU graduates meet or exceed expectations. What’s more, WGU graduates report an annual increase in income that is nearly double the average increase of graduates nationwide.

What are the benefits of attending WGU Tennessee and its technology?

WGU pioneered online competency-based education, and remains the only university offering competency-based degrees at scale, creating a model other colleges and universities are increasingly striving to replicate.

What is competency-based education? Simply put, it measures learning rather than time. Students progress through courses as quickly as they can prove mastery of the material—no waiting for the next term to start the next course. If a student can draw on past experience, or dedicate extra time to their studies, they can accelerate their progress and potentially graduate faster. With 24/7 access to online learning resources, students can tailor their academic journey to fit their schedule, completing coursework anytime and anyplace that works best for them. Additionally, faculty members provide regular, personalized, one-on-one support.

Aside from our online, competency-based model, WGU Tennessee also differentiates its IT programs by embedding industry certifications into the curriculum, and at no additional cost to the student if he or she passes the certification exam on the first try.

As many IT professionals know, certifications are very important to employers, and can be costly for students. Our IT grads enter the workforce with a bachelor’s or master’s degree, along with the certifications desired for positions in their career field – such as CompTIA, CCNA, CCENT and MCSA.

How are your employees finding value in NTC’s membership?

We encourage our Nashville-area students, alumni, and faculty to get involved with NTC. The tech industry moves so quickly that it’s important for IT professionals to have continuing education opportunities like the ones NTC regularly provides.

NTC’s events are also great networking opportunities for our students and alumni, many of whom are career changers just entering the tech industry.

What are you most excited about in Nashville?

The investment our state—Governor Haslam and the legislature, businesses, and nonprofits—has made in education is commendable, and Nashville is right at the heart of the effort because of the number of colleges, universities, and education-focused groups.

Some of WGU Tennessee’s largest partners, such as HCA, CHS, MNPS and Nashville State Community College, are located in Nashville and we look forward to forming more partnerships with Nashville organizations in the future.