COVID-19: WGU funds $10M in emergency aid to support students

Funds will go toward scholarships, tuition assistance and non-tuition emergency aid for qualifying students

NASHVILLE – Western Governors University (WGU) has set aside $10 million in emergency aid funds to help current and new students experiencing financial and health care hardships as a result of COVID-19. In addition, the online, nonprofit university is working to raise another $10 million in matching donations. There are more than 4,200 students currently enrolled in programs and nearly 5,500 graduates of WGU in Tennessee.

“WGU Tennessee students – 75% of whom juggle full-time jobs in addition to their education – exemplify hard work and dedication every day,” said Dr. Kimberly K. Estep, WGU Tennessee chancellor. “In providing this emergency aid, WGU Tennessee hopes to lighten the load and ensure that no student will have their education journey diverted by COVID-19.”

A financial disruption of just a few hundred dollars can often derail a student’s academic progress, and 71% of WGU’s students come from one or more historically underserved populations: low-income earners, rural residents, students of color, and/or first-generation college students. WGU’s emergency aid fund will help mitigate those financial disruptions with the following:

·         Non-tuition emergency aid: Support for current students with expenses that threaten their academic progress, such as rent, groceries, medical bills, internet service and other essential needs.

·         Enhanced Financial Support Fund: Hardship scholarships for current students who need tuition assistance due to financial disruptions.

·         Funding for interrupted terms: Support for eligible current students, such as those who cannot complete in-person demonstration teaching and clinical rotations.

·         Bright Future Scholarship: 1,000 need-based scholarships of up to $3,000 each for enrolling students or those newly enrolled since March 1.

·         Additional financial support: Help with restructured payment plans or tuition and fee credits for some eligible students.

“Fundraising to support emergency aid for our high-need students is our top priority,” said Annalisa Holcombe, president of WGU Advancement, the university’s official fundraising arm. “As COVID-19 continues to disrupt the communities in which our students live, many will need immediate assistance in order to gain the skillsets required to support our national and local economies as we get through this difficult time.”

Organizations and individuals can visit to make matching contributions to WGU’s Student Emergency Aid Fund. Students can learn more about eligibility requirements and how to apply for aid by visiting Applications for non-tuition emergency aid are currently processed in seven to 10 days; but through a partnership with Edquity – a leading emergency aid technology platform – the process for requesting and receiving aid will be shortened to three days, on average. WGU is working with Edquity to offer its platform to all students by the end of the month.

WGU largely serves nontraditional and underrepresented students. With a median age of 35, its students are primarily working adults, with 85% employed either part time or full time while enrolled. Nationally, the university has awarded more than 183,000 degrees, including nearly 65,000 bachelor’s or master’s degrees in nursing. Its current student body of more than 121,000 includes approximately 27,000 working nurses across the nation.

WGU students live, work and participate in every major community in the U.S. Its online, competency-based, independently driven learning model has always given students the flexibility to access coursework and assessments 24/7, from home or wherever it’s convenient for them. This flexibility has enabled many WGU students to continue their studies uninterrupted, even as college students at most other U.S. institutions have found their academic year significantly impacted by the pandemic. WGU set a single-month record for graduates in April, with more than 4,300 students earning degrees.   

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