WGU-online is relatively new to this state, but has been around for a while in the country.
It’s a national online university that now has a “campus” here in North Carolina. It was proposed rather secretly within the 2015 budget.
Page 86 to be specific.
On May 21, 2015, Sarah Ovaska-Few reported on the controversial online college known as Western Governors University and its shady introduction to North Carolina in “<a href="http://<!– wp:paragraph –> <p>On May 21, 2015, Sarah Ovaska-Few reported on the controversial online college known as Western Governors University and its shady introduction to North Carolina in “Controversial online college on its way to North Carolina?” (<a href="http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2015/05/21/controversial-online-college-on-its-way-to-north-carolina/">http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2015/05/21/controversial-online-college-on-its-way-to-north-carolina/</a>).</p> Controversial online college on its way to North Carolina?”
Some of the more eye-opening, yet not surprising elements of the story included:
- “A controversial online university that credits students for their existing skills and knowledge could soon have a larger role in North Carolina, with a funding stream carved out in the state House’s version of the budget.”
- “Though WGU is not named directly in the budget, a reference deep in the 317-page proposed budget (pages 86 and 87) written by House Republicans would allow a private online school that uses the competency model of education to receive some of the nearly $90 million slated for need-based scholarships the state provides to low-income students attending private colleges and universities in the state.”
- “In North Carolina, the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, a conservative think-tank funded by former state budget director Art Pope’s family foundation, has pushed to bring WGU to the state. N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore, a Republican from Cleveland County, serves on the Pope Center board.”
- “Critics say WGU’s model, which uses classes developed by third-party vendors and has less faculty involvement than that of traditional community college or university classes, delivers a subpar education at costs not all that different from what some public university and community colleges can offer.”
- “The online school is also quick to accept students’ previous college credits, but once students began taking classes at WGU, it can be difficult to get those classes recognized outside the online university, Pressnell said.”
- “WGU’s six-year completion or graduation rate is only about 38 percent, a number that WGU hopes to raise to over 60 percent in coming years, said Mitchell, the spokeswoman for the Utah-based online university.”
With names such as Art Pope and Tim Moore associated with it in 2015, there had to be more incestuous synergy to make WGU a reality in 2017.
As reported in the Oct. 10th, 2017 edition of the Raleigh News & Observer, Western Governors University got a firm footing in the state. Colin Campbell’s work in “Former McCrory aide to lead online university launched with $2 million from state” shed light on the evolution of another way that West Jones Street is undermining post-secondary education in North Carolina.
“The 2015 state budget included a $2 million allocation to Western Governors University, or WGU, even though it already had enrolled students in North Carolina. Sen. Chad Barefoot, a Wake Forest Republican, told WRAL at the time that the money would help forge relationships with other schools and hospitals to allow students to do practical learning and internships.
The grant required WGU to raise $5 million in private funds in order to receive the $2 million. Donors included the Golden LEAF Foundation – which administers the state’s share of tobacco settlement funds – as well as Strada Education Network and Utah developer Dell Loy Hansen. WGU North Carolina’s leader will be Catherine Truitt, who served as Gov. Pat McCrory’s education adviser before joining the UNC system’s general administration as an associate vice president. McCrory was involved in the 2015 grant.”
McCrory’s involvement? That was an executive order as explained on page 86 of the 2015 budget.
“Satisfies the competencies for online educational institutions established by executive order of the Governor.”
North Carolina still boasts one of the nation’s premiere public university systems even after the assault on it by the General Assembly. The pretense of it being some place where people can work at their own pace with “previous” experience used as credits makes it sound more predatory than needed. Models such as WGU’s have not worked in the past and prey upon low-income individuals who cannot afford the time and money to physically go to a campus and meet with actual classes and professors.
“Because WGU is an online university, its only physical presence in North Carolina will be an office staffed by Truitt and others. It uses what’s called a “competency-based” approach to education, where students progress through course material at their own pace and can advance as soon as they show they’ve mastered the subject through writing papers, making presentations and taking tests.”
The U.S. Dept, of Education has on its College Scorecard site the following profile of WGU.
That’s a graduation rate of 43%. That ain’t great. Apparently, the person who said we were not prepared for online learning last May in an op-ed (yes, that’s Truitt) works for an entity that is prepared for online learning and the result is an average 43% graduation rate.
AND WESTERN GOVERNORS UNIVERSITY IS INTO SPONSORING POLITICAL ACTIVITY!
Just look to the State Policy Network.
The “SPN” is kind of a sister organization to ALEC that serves as an “umbrella” for ALEC aligned think tanks and institutions.
Again from SourceWatch:
The State Policy Network (SPN) is a web of right-wing “think tanks” and tax-exempt organizations in 50 states, Washington, D.C., Canada, and the United Kingdom. As of October 2019, SPN’s membership totals 162. Today’s SPN is the tip of the spear of far-right, nationally funded policy agenda in the states that undergirds extremists in the Republican Party.
SPN describes itself as a network and service organization for the “state-based free market think tank movement,” and its stated mission is “to provide strategic assistance to independent research organizations devoted to discovering and developing market-oriented solutions to state and local public policy issues.” It was founded in November 1991 and incorporated in March of 1992.
SPN groups operate as the policy, communications, and litigation arm of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), giving the cookie-cutter ALEC agenda a sheen of academic legitimacy and state-based support.
ALEC and SPN are arms of the Koch Brothers empire of influence.
The State Policy Network is rather big. It reaches into practically every state and links “individual” entities together. Oddly many of those entities are already linked.
Look at the directory and explore North Carolina for instance.
And you get this:
They all are linked to Art Pope, who needs no introduction to North Carolinians and was already linked to Western Governors University earlier in this post.
School choice, school privatization, and other actions that have weakened public schools in North Carolina are usually championed by Pope and his organizations.
The State Policy Network held its annual meeting just a couple of weeks ago.
On that virtual announcement toward the bottom was a list of sponsoring entities.
For public school advocates in North Carolina, K12 and edChoice mighjt be familiar.
Take a look at that bottom row. There’s this sponsor:
Western Governors University.
Who is the top WGU official in NC for WGU and serves as its current chancellor?
And she says,