Finding new ways to educate the Nevada workforce
Nevada employers rely on institutions of higher education to build a skilled workforce. As more companies settle into Nevada, universities are working to prepare students for the jobs these companies are creating.
“The big questions for Nevada are how do we increase our college attainment rate; how do we improve workforce development and talent development,” Spencer Stewart, Chancellor of Western Governors University (WGU) Nevada, said in an interview with NNBW.
One of the ways that Nevada is working to solve these questions is through the development of WGU Nevada. WGU Nevada is an online, non-profit, competency-based university designed to provide working adults with an affordable and flexible way to earn their degree.
WGU was established in 1997 by 19 U.S. governors with the intent to provide cost-effective and accessible higher education. WGU enrolled their first students in 1999 and has become one of the fastest growing online universities within the past decade.
“We have seen really remarkable success,” Stewart said.
The WGU Nevada was created as a partnership between the State of Nevada and WGU in 2015. The start-up of WGU Nevada was funded through a $2 million grant from USA funds.
They currently offer more than 50 bachelor’s and master’s degree programs within four colleges, which include the college of business, college of information technology, college of health professionals and the teachers college.
Stewart explained that it is one of WGU Nevada’s goals to meet the workforce gaps.
“Those colleges really get at those needs,” he said.
WGU uses a competency-based education. This method of teaching focuses on students mastering the skills they are learning to guarantee students are prepared when they enter the workforce. This allows students to focus on learning new skills and not have to relearn things they are ready know. According to Stewart, the average time for WGU students to complete a bachelor’s degree is about two and half years.
“As our economy evolves and industry evolves, teaching and learning needs to evolve with that,” Stewart said.
Stewart explained that one of the fastest growing demographic for college is the post traditional student. According to WGU Nevada’s 2015 annual report, 70 percent of their students are classified as underserved, 40 percent their students are first-generation college students and their average student age is 37.
“One of our driving principals is to make education more affordable and accessible,” Stewart said.
The school enrolls new students every first of the month. Instead of charging per the number of credits taken, tuition is calculated by term. The cost for tuition is $6,000 per year, which includes the price of books and learning resources. The online university also has many scholarship opportunities available for their students. According to Stewart, WGU has not raised the price of tuition since 2008.
“For a cost conscience population, and working adults usually are, this makes a lot of sense,” Stewart said.
Students connect with faculty on a regular basis via phone, video conferencing and other online tools. The online university is beneficial to many Nevadans, particularly ones who live in rural areas and would have to commute a significant amount of time to attend a university.
WGU Nevada has developed many partnerships with employers throughout the state such as Nevada State Bank, Renown Health, NV Energy, the Nevada School Districts and Allegiant Air to name a few.
“Everything we do the student is at the center of it,” Stewart said.
They have an 80 percent retention rate after their first year.
WGU Nevada held their first graduation ceremony for more than 200 graduates this past May. Nevada’s Lieutenant Governor Mark Hutchison was the keynote speaker at the graduation.
WGU Nevada is based in Las Vegas and is an accredited online university. For more information about WGU Nevada, visit http://www.nevada.wgu.edu.
Reno’s median home price jumped to $413,405 in November, a 4 percent increase from the same month a year ago. Meanwhile, across greater Reno-Sparks, November’s median price of $400,000 remained unchanged from October.