North Carolina has an ambitious educational attainment goal: to help 2 million North Carolinians earn a high-quality postsecondary degree or credential by 2030. Recognizing that we must prepare today’s students for the skilled jobs of tomorrow, our state’s businesses and educators have been stepping up to provide new pathways for education. We’re proud to work alongside many of our members on innovative new solutions, including WGU North Carolina, our state affiliate of Western Governors University.
WGU North Carolina is a nonprofit online university offering competency-based education at scale. This unique model means that students aren’t measured based on time they spend earning a degree, but instead on the skills and competencies they learn. The average age of a WGU North Carolina student is 36, and 76% of students work full-time. Current enrollment includes students from 98 of North Carolina’s 100 counties, and 19% of students statewide are affiliated with the military community. These learners value a flexible schedule and they can learn at their own pace; with one flat tuition rate of around $3,700 for six months depending on the program, a student can take as many courses as they’d like.
As we seek to reach North Carolina’s educational attainment goal, we know that we can’t just focus on students currently in high school or other education systems. Staying on our current trajectory, we’d be 400,000 individuals short in 2030 to meet the state’s hiring needs. That’s why alternative pathways like WGU’s will be so critical for businesses in the future. Additionally, WGU North Carolina recognizes that non-traditional learners have vastly different educational needs than young adults coming straight from high school. That’s why each student at WGU is assigned a personal mentor with experience in the field they’re studying. The model is obviously effective as enrollment at WGU has increased dramatically over the last few years—with more than 3,400 students in North Carolina and more than 119,000 nationally, WGU’s enrollment increased 23% in 2018, according to the Education Department.
Another way WGU North Carolina is helping address the skills gap in North Carolina is through their partnerships with community colleges and other educators, including the recently announced agreement with the Rowan-Salisbury School System. This new program will help teacher assistants advance their careers by earning bachelor’s degrees or other certifications while still working—including access to tuition credits to reduce their cost. Additionally, WGU has partnered with a number of North Carolina’s community colleges including Davidson County Community College and Wake Technical Community College to provide easy transfer pathways for those graduates. Once a student finishes their associate degree with one of these community colleges, they can access tuition credits and scholarships to continue earning their bachelor’s degree at WGU.
WGU also offers flexible online programs for businesses who want build and upskill their existing talent. A survey of companies that hired WGU alumni revealed that 97% said WGU graduates meet or exceed expectations. Businesses like Charter Communications have partnered with WGU North Carolina to help upskill their existing employees—taking the skills gap into their own hands with the help of the WGU team. It’s partnerships like these that will help strengthen North Carolina’s talent pipeline and position our state for even greater successes in the future.
Behind each business in North Carolina are the ideas, partnerships and people that fuel our state’s success. Behind each business is a story and a vision for the future. As the voice for business, the NC Chamber is committed to telling these stories and highlighting the organizations and people that keep our state moving forward. Behind the Business is a series of profiles featuring NC Chamber Cornerstone members doing great work in North Carolina. Interested in being featured? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.