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Five years may seem like a short amount of time, but it can bring about significant changes. Just look at higher education in Ohio, which has witnessed a transformative shift during this period.

In 2018, the Ohio Department of Higher Education partnered with Western Governors University (WGU), an online, competency-based institution, to form WGU Ohio. This partnership opened doors for Ohio students, providing them with new educational opportunities and shaping a brighter future.

In June 2023, representatives from the State of Ohio, WGU administration, and Night Owl alumni gathered at the Capitol building in Columbus, OH, to celebrate the first five years of WGU Ohio. All enjoyed food and fun as attendees listened to speakers discuss the past, present, and future of WGU Ohio.

Promises Made, Promises Kept

In 2018, WGU Ohio set ambitious goals for student enrollment and graduation rates. Looking back five years later, it’s clear that we have achieved these goals–and then some.

“We [hyperbolized] that we would have between four to five thousand students at any given time and probably six to seven thousand graduates by the time the five-year mark came around,” said Chris Bonnell, Vice President of External Affairs at WGU.

With over 4,800 current students and more than 9,400 graduates as of June 2023, WGU Ohio is changing real lives and fulfilling promises.

As of June 2023, WGU has exceeded these lofty goals, with over 4,800 current students and more than 9,400 graduates, WGU Ohio is changing real lives and fulfilling promises. WGU Ohio’s commitment to transforming lives has remained steadfast, inspiring optimism for an even brighter future.

“I certainly expect that in the next five years, the number of graduates or alumni of WGU Ohio may be 20,000. And after that, it may be 40,000,” Bonnell said.

Breaking Down Barriers

WGU Ohio’s ultimate goal is to identify and create pathways to opportunity that were previously blocked to many students. By addressing educational barriers, the university empowers students to gain valuable knowledge, education, and credentials, thus unlocking their potential for a successful future.

“We’ve really just begun tapping into the opportunity for advanced education and credentials for individuals here,” said Barbara Smoot, Chair of WGU Ohio’s advisory board.

The establishment of WGU Ohio pioneered a new approach to education that focused on competency and accessibility. As a result, WGU Ohio has remained steadfast as education in our nation faces unprecedented challenges. When the COVID pandemic struck, leaving most of America’s colleges and universities racing to respond, WGU Ohio was poised to take action and keep education available.

“They didn’t miss a beat and they were able to expand access to the internet,” said Jill Jess, Communication Representative at WGU. “Most of us thought everyone has access to the internet. No, very many people do not. And those are the people who need the work that WGU does.”

Embracing the Future

Looking ahead, WGU Ohio remains committed to promoting equity, expanding programs, and meeting Ohio’s workforce needs.

“The future will be about equity. It will continue to be about creating pathways, adding additional programs, ensuring that we meet the workforce demands,” said Dr. K.L. Allen, Chancellor of WGU Ohio.

The past five years have been a testament to WGU Ohio’s commitment to transforming lives and creating opportunities. By staying true to its mission and embracing innovation, the university continues to shape a brighter future for students, providing them with the tools they need to succeed in an ever-changing world. As the journey continues, WGU Ohio’s impact on education and society promises to grow.

“I look forward to the day when everybody that wants that meaningful pathway has that opportunity to a high quality, low-cost degree,” Bonnell said.