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WGU Washington to Celebrate its First Commencement

Enrollment up 175 percent first year at accredited, nonprofit, online university

SEATTLE, April 17, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Online, nonprofit WGU Washington,, established and endorsed by the State Legislature just one year ago, will celebrate its first commencement on April 21 at Seattle's Bell Harbor International Conference Center beginning at 1:00 p.m. On the eve of its first anniversary, the university will celebrate its first 236 graduates, and former Seattle Mayor Norman Rice will deliver the commencement address. Rep. Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney (D-Seattle) and Sen. Jim Kastama (D-Puyallup), sponsors of the legislation creating WGU Washington, will be honored for their work in helping expand higher education opportunities in the state.

Although WGU Washington students complete their studies online, more than 50 graduates from across the state will walk in Saturday's event, supported by more than 500 family members, friends, and WGU faculty. Graduates and others who are not able to attend on Saturday will be able to watch the event online beginning April 30 on WGU Washington's website.

"We are so excited," said WGU Washington Chancellor Jean Floten, an award-winning Washington educator and former president of Bellevue College. "We've achieved many milestones in the last 12 months, but none as important to us as seeing our first graduates receive their diplomas. WGU Washington's amazing enrollment growth, 175 percent in just 12 months, demonstrates the tremendous need for diversity of educational opportunity in our state. WGU Washington's first-year successes are a testament to the foresight, wisdom, and bipartisan support of our state legislators, who understood that we had to reach out to working adults in order to meet the current and future demands of the state's economy."

Established when signed into law by Governor Christine Gregoire on April 22, 2011, WGU Washington offers more than 50 bachelor's and master's degrees in business, K-12 teacher education, information technology, and health professions, including nursing. The university serves working adults, place-bound individuals, and the 950,000 state residents who have started – but not finished – their college degrees. WGU Washington uses an online, competency-based learning model that measures learning rather than time. This approach allows students to earn their degrees by demonstrating their mastery of subject matter rather than spending time in class to accumulate credit hours. Designed to meet the needs of adult learners, WGU's competency-based model makes it possible for students to take advantage of prior education and experience to move quickly through material they already know so they can focus on what they still need to learn. As a result, the average time to complete a bachelor's degree is 30 months.

WGU Washington is affordable—tuition is charged at a flat rate of approximately $6,000 per 12-month year for most programs. This means that rather than paying per credit hour, students may complete as many courses as they are able in any term without incurring additional costs.

"WGU Washington's innovative—some say revolutionary—approach to learning is truly exceptional because it uses technology to facilitate learning and provides a high degree of personal touch through faculty mentors," says Floten. "For many of our 2,600 students, who have job and family responsibilities that make it difficult if not impossible to attend a traditional university, it's the only way to complete the bachelor's or master's degree they need to meet their career goals and improve their lives."

About WGU Washington

WGU Washington was established by the State Legislature in partnership with nationally recognized and accredited Western Governors University to expand access to higher education for Washington residents. The nonprofit university, which has received no funding from the state, offers more than 50 bachelor's and master's degree programs in business, information technology, K-12 teacher education, and health professions, including nursing. The university's online, competency-based learning model is designed to meet the needs of working adults by providing an affordable, flexible option for earning an accredited, respected college degree.

Degrees are granted under the accreditation of Western Governors University, which is regionally accredited through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) and nationally accredited through the Distance Education and Training Commission (DETC). Teachers College programs are accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and Nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

The university has earned the support of more than 20 leading corporations and foundations. They include institutions such as AT&T, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Lilly Endowment, HCA, Hewlett-Packard, Lumina Foundation, Microsoft, Oracle, SunGard Higher Education, and Zions Bank.

For more information, visit the WGU Washington website or call 1-877-214-7004.

WGU Washington Commencement facts

  • 236 graduates will be recognized during the ceremony.
  • WGU Washington students reside in 38 of the state's 39 counties.
  • 127 undergraduate and 109 graduate degrees will be awarded.
  • Degree distribution by college:           
    • College of Business – 73
    • College of Health Professions and Nursing—36
    • College of Information Technology—17
    • Teachers College—110
  • The average age of the graduates is 39; the youngest grad is 21; the oldest is 61.
  • 88% of the graduates are at least 27 years old.
  • 63% of graduates are female; 37% are male.
  • 35% represent the first generation in their family to complete a college degree.
  • The average time to graduation is two years, three months.
  • Current enrollment is more than 2,600, an increase of more than 175% since WGU Washington's launch.

Follow WGU:

Contact for Washington media inquiries:
Kris Sherman
[email protected]

Joan Mitchell – Director of PR
[email protected]

Contact for enrollment information:




SOURCE WGU Washington

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