Model online school gets big gift from Gates Foundation

WGU Indiana’s enrollment has grown from around 300 when the school opened in June 2010 to more than 1,300 last May. The university employs more than 100 Indiana residents.

Washington Sen. Jim Kastama, a Democrat, said in January that teaming up with 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.

“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.”

Nearly seven in 10 Washington jobs will require some postsecondary education by 2018, and between 2011-18, jobs requiring some college experience will increase by 250,000, Washington state lawmakers said in a proclamation issued after forming the state’s WGU program.

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