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For many learners, the biggest barrier to accessing education is cost. That’s why we at WGU pride ourselves on being the more affordable alternative to traditional higher education.

The average yearly tuition for a bachelor’s degree program at WGU is $7,452–just over half the national average of $12,112. The gap grows even wider when we compare the average yearly tuition for a master’s degree program: 7,842 dollars at WGU compared to 22,913. 

We are proud of those numbers. However, we know that $7,500 per year is more than just a drop in the bucket for many. 


Federal Student Aid

If we want to stay true to our mission of making education more accessible for all, we need to make it affordable. Thankfully, WGU is approved by the U.S. Department of Education to offer federal student aid in all of our degree programs. Because of our affordable tuition, many students who apply for and accept federal student aid will have most–if not all–of their education expenses covered. 

And we don’t leave our students to sort out the borrowing system on their own. As student debt looms large in America, WGU is trying to promote fiscal responsibility, which is why we created the Responsible Borrowing Initiative to help learners understand student loans and encourage them to borrow only what they need.

This initiative is part of our investment in the future of our students, and it works. Since 2013, the average borrowing per year per WGU student (of those who borrow) has decreased by more than 30%. By following a personalized Financial Aid Plan, many Night Owls are able to graduate largely unburdened by debt.


Scholarships and Individual Giving

WGU also continues to eliminate the financial barrier to education through scholarships. At WGU, our scholarships exist thanks to the gifts of benefactors and donors who want to provide a hand up to students. 

In addition to many corporations and foundations, our employees are actually the biggest donors to our student scholarship funds. Some go above and beyond to give students the support they need. I will never forget a story I was told in 2017. One of our Vice Presidents checked in on a student, a single father in Indiana. The student had been working diligently for a year and a half to complete his teaching degree, and finally had his degree in hand. There was just one problem: he was required to pay a licensing fee in the state of Indiana to receive his teaching credentials.
A metaphorical hat was quickly passed within the WGU offices. Not only did we raise enough money to cover the licensing fee, we were able to give him a little extra to help him through the interview process. By the time school started that fall, he was a teacher with his own classroom.

One of the most compelling parts of the WGU story is the generosity of our current and former students. These students have been so deeply impacted by WGU’s high-quality, low-cost approach to education that they want to afford others the same opportunity. 

At every commencement, we acknowledge those who have committed to donating to the student emergency aid fund. As of our most recent commencement event, that number is up to $200,000 dollars. These students are willing to contribute the dollars they have saved by attending WGU to pay the tuition of total strangers. 

Our students, employees, and the federal government have all chosen to invest in WGU; now, we are asking our states to do the same. In part two of this story, I’ll share how leaders can support learners and improve the economy in their state by becoming a WGU State Affiliate–so stay tuned. 

And that, my friends, is my Sage Advice.