States look to Indiana as a model for online instruction

There's no limit to the number of credits a WGU student can earn in six months.

Washington state could mimic Indiana’s successful model for online instruction if a state legislator’s proposed bill that would make online college classes more available to students there becomes law.

In a Jan. 6 announcement, Washington State Sen. Jim Kastama, a Democrat, said he soon would propose legislation that would form a partnership between the state and Western Governors University (WGU), a nonprofit online school formed in 1999 with about 20,000 students nationwide.

Kastama said teaming up with the Utah-based WGU would be a way for Washington to meet its “huge unmet need for higher education,” especially during the nation’s economic downturn, when millions have gone back to college to attain extra education while they’re unemployed or underemployed.

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“This would add capacity at a time when our schools have no choice but to turn away working men and women who desperately need to be educated for new jobs in new fields,” Kastama said. “The need for such an institution can’t be understated. … It makes sense to make it more accessible to our many students who want a college education but can’t find a seat in a classroom at our overcrowded schools.”

A partnership with the nationally accredited WGU would mean the state’s students could transfer course credits from the university to other state institutions. Washington students also could use state-issued grants and scholarships at the school if lawmakers agree to team up with WGU.

Partnering with WGU has paid dividends for Indiana just six months after the state launched the first online college classes at WGU Indiana, which offers 50 accredited bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in a range of majors, including business and information technology, according to WGU statistics.