Sramana Mitra: You have two kinds of mentors – student and course mentors. Then, the curriculum material is coming from third party?
Ray Martinez: Typically, that is the case for most of our degree programs.
Sramana Mitra: What about completion rates? When we talk about MOOCs – self-managed online learning – there’s a distinct problem with people abandoning the course after a while.
Ray Martinez: Absolutely. It’s a concern for online education like WGU. It’s obviously a concern of a traditional brick-and-mortar as well. It’s something that we focus upon. We think that the model that we have put together, particularly the student mentors whose job is to stay in touch with the students and encourage course completion, helps us tremendously. We monitor and track the retention rate of our students. The latest number I’ve seen of our 13-month retention rate for WGU Texas is in the high 70s. The last I’ve seen was around 77%. That compares favorably slightly above what we see for an average 13-month retention rate for brick-and-mortar universities that offer similar programs.
We do take very seriously the fact that we want students who are enrolling in our four colleges who are seriously committed towards the work ethic and diligence that it takes to complete a degree program online. It is something that we’re constantly looking at but it’s no different than any other higher educational institution. I know that everybody is increasingly focused upon, not just access to higher education, but upon success and completion. We’re no different than anybody else in that regard.
Sramana Mitra: Any other trends or issues that are specific to your industry that you think we should discuss?
Ray Martinez: It’s really what we’ve touched upon already. The numbers in Texas are very compelling in terms of the number of adults who started college and never completed their degree. Lumina Foundation just put out some revised numbers over the past couple of weeks. It’s a very valuable tool. Their number is based on the US Census data. They break them out for all 50 states. They show that in Texas, we have a little over 3.1 million Texans between the ages of 25 and 64 who started college, but for whatever reason, life got in the way in some capacity and they didn’t complete the degree.
Over the next five to ten years, the majority of new jobs created in the State of Texas are going to require a college education. I think we’re starting to see an uptake in our attainment rate across the country and a slow uptake here in Texas as well.