Smart College Alternative: Online with Western Governors University

WGU Western Governors University mascot owlI like college. In fact, I have a Bachelors degree in Computer Science from UCSD, a Masters in Education from Purdue University and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Baltimore, Merrick School of Business. You can glean that from my LinkedIn profile, but what few people know is that I earned my MBA through the Merrick online program, completing the first year while we were wrapping up our life in California and the second year of the program while settling down in our new home in Boulder, Colorado.

Had I have pursued a more traditional MBA with a ground-based program (and I checked out Santa Clara University, Stanford, San Jose State University, etc) we would have been stuck there and our entire journey would have undoubtedly been different.

I really enjoyed working online with my compatriots who were scattered not just around the United States, but around the world (some were in the military, serving overseas at the time). All the same textbooks, the same lectures, discussions, group projects, homework assignments, papers, case studies as a traditional on-the-ground MBA, but with vastly more flexibility for my schedule and considerably lower cost.

My oldest is now poised to make the college decision and after having completed 11th grade through Laurel Springs Academy, an online school based in California, she’s rather uniquely able to properly assess the option of pursuing her undergraduate degree online. If she gets one at all at this moment in her life.

The reality is that college ain’t what it used to be. When I was going through college in the 80s, pretty much every successful businessperson had a bachelors degree in something or other and most people were working in the job they’d trained for five, ten, even twenty years earlier. Today things are changing far faster, jobs are becoming obsolete faster and that college degree isn’t a guarantee of a great job immediately thereafter. So it’s smart for young adults to assess their options and for some, a traditional four or five year program at a traditional college, with the $100,000+ in debt at the end of that track, is the way to go. Good luck to ’em.

Western Governors University sealFor many, however, alternatives are smarter and far more satisfying. My sister didn’t get her bachelor’s degree until she was in her 40s, for example, and my experience with my online MBA convinced me that even with tech that was far more primitive than what’s deployed today the experience can be both educational and fulfilling.

Enter Western Governors University. If you’re like me, you might never have heard of it, but the backstory is fascinating: It was created by the governors of 19 western states and is supported by 20 major corporations and foundations. And it doesn’t come with a crushing pricetag for educational study nor does it need to fund sprawling campuses with massive maintenance staffs and expensive professors who are far more focused on publishing and research than teaching.

CNN says “it’s a school without boundaries” and Time Magazine suggests that the informal motto of the school should be “let’s not waste anyone’s time or money.” Quite a difference from the Ivy League, isn’t it?

The program is competency based, half the cost of other online schools and a fraction of the cost of most ground-based educational institutions. That means you graduate ready to jump into the workforce and your life, not saddled with a crushing debt that’ll take years to pay off. In fact, you’re probably already in the workforce, in which case the extreme flexibility of WGU’s schedule is a huge boon.

Watch this quite touching video of graduates to see what I mean:

The one thing to consider with any online program is accreditation: If it’s not accredited, your degree might as well been just downloaded from the Web. WGU, however, has the same accreditation as both state universities and private colleges. It’s also crazy flexible, just as my program was with the University of Baltimore. Trust me, if I would have tried to complete a two year masters degree at Santa Clara University while moving my family from California to Colorado, I would have gone completely batty. Working at night, on weekends, while the kids are napping, between shifts at work, it’s a lifesaver and more importantly, it reflects the reality that college students have lives and those lives can’t just be pushed aside for four or five years.

Here’s the good news, the reward for you reading my thoughts on college education, Western Governors University and alternatives to the traditional high school –> four year college path: You — or your child — can now apply to WGU without having to pay the application fee. Nice. And remember, they have graduate degrees too, so this isn’t just of interest to 18yo’s like my daughter.

Just click on this handy link:

WGU App Fee Waiver Code

Oh, and how can you not like a school where the mascot is the Owl (as shown at the top of this article) and the students refer to themselves as Night Owls? I mean, that was certainly my college experience!

So let’s wrap this up with a question:

What was your college experience like and how much debt did you have on the day you graduated?

I should also note that this is a sponsored post as I detail below, but that I’m so impressed with the program that I’m applying to join as an instructor. 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Western Governors University. The opinions and text are all mine.