The online, non-profit university WGU (Western Governors University) Tennessee and Southwest Tennessee Community College have formed a partnership that allows Southwest graduates and staff to receive application fee waivers and discounted tuition to WGU.
"Southwest Tennessee Community College has long been known for providing adult learners with quality higher education," said Dr. Kimberly Estep, WGU chancellor. "This partnership with WGU Tennessee will offer Southwest graduates and staff an even more affordable pathway toward achieving the dream of earning a bachelor's degree."
Gov. Bill Haslam launched WGU last July as part of his "Drive to 55" initiative to bring the percentage of Tennesseans with a college degree or certificate to 55 percent by 2025. The online university is primarily aimed at working adults seeking to earn a bachelor's or master's degree.
By self-description, WGU focuses on competency-based education, which measures learning rather than time spent in class. Students advance in their degree program when they master course materials. The premise is that this allows students to move from material they already know so they can focus on what they need to learn.
"We are enthusiastic about working with Southwest Community College in the ongoing effort to help more people advance their education and improve their lives," Estep said.
Dr. Nathan Essex, president of Southwest Tennessee Community College, said the partnership is a much-needed effort in Tennessee.
"Given what we're faced with as a state and a city, there's so much that everyone can do together," Essex said.
WGU targets those who attended but didn't complete their college education, and Essex said community colleges can help add students to the pipeline.
The partnership also marks the attainment of a major goal for WGU Tennessee: partnership with all 13 community colleges in the state, according to Estep. WGU Tennessee began forming partnerships with Tennessee's community colleges after its launch in 2013. Total statewide community college enrollments during fall 2013 neared 90,000, many of whom were adult students returning to school.
Dr. Joanne Bassett, provost and executive vice president of Southwest, said the Southwest-WGU partnership is an exciting opportunity for adult students to earn their education.
"We are very excited about this new opportunity for our students to complete a four-year degree after graduation from Southwest," said Bassett.
"We think this will be particularly appealing to adult students who can demonstrate through both work experience and prior college coursework that they have the requisite skills to complete a four-year degree in an abbreviated period of time."