Sramana Mitra: Tell me a little more about WGU.
Ray Martinez: WGU was founded 16 years ago by a group of governors who were representing western states. This is back in 1996 – a little more than 16 years ago. In 1996 at a meeting of the Western Governors’ Association, the idea of using technology to help expand the capacity of adult learners to have access to higher education was discussed amongst a group of about 14 to 15 governors. These governors were at that time the Chief Executive of their respective states and in a position to really do something about that.
They decided to start an online university that focused exclusively on high-demand occupation areas. What that meant at that time for the Governors, and it’s still true today of WGU, is to have degree programs that are in high demand as occupations. The four colleges that we have in our university are the College of Information Technology, College of Business, College of Health Professions, and a Teacher’s College.
Sramana Mitra: All of this is online?
Ray Martinez: All of this is online. That is correct. All of our degree programs are offered online. The average age of a student of WGU Texas is 37 years old and typically our average student has a full-time job and in most cases, a full-time family as well. That particular student is looking for the flexibility of a degree program that is credible, affordable, but flexible as well. They are looking for programs that are online and allow them to come home, tend to their family needs, and tend to their work needs as they complete what is a very valuable bachelors or master’s degree with WGU.
Sramana Mitra: I have a couple of questions on that. One is what scale are you doing this at?
Ray Martinez: Nationally, there are over 45,000 students that are enrolled in all 50 states in WGU. That’s our national student population. We can get you the exact number but I’m pretty sure we just eclipsed the 45,000 student mark nationally. Our home office is located in Salt Lake City, Utah but over the last five years, our home office has actually branded five specific WGU states. The first was in Indiana in 2010. The second was Washington State in early 2011. Texas was third, which opened its doors in the fall of 2011. Then just last summer of 2013, we started WGU Missouri and WGU Tennessee. The student population of those five states counts towards our national student population here in these five states.
We are branded as WGU Texas, so we keep track of our student population in Texas. We make additional efforts to market ourselves and to be as visible as possible – to let people know that we are a higher education option for those that are looking for the flexibility of our online degree programs.