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Nixon signs order to establish online university

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Gov. Jay Nixon on Friday signed an executive order and a memorandum of understanding that would establish a Missouri chapter of Western Governors University.

Announced first during Nixon's State of the State address in January, WGU Missouri would be a state-based online university with a goal of increasing the number of Missourians with post-secondary degrees to 60 percent from 37 percent, according to a news release.

“There are nearly 750,000 Missourians who started college but never completed their degrees,” Nixon said in the release. “Many of them may want to go back to complete their degrees, but haven’t. Often, that is because they believe it is too expensive to return to college, or the demands on their time from job or family are too great.

"That’s how WGU, an accredited nonprofit university that is putting down new roots in Missouri, can play a tremendous role, especially in expanding access to education to underserved populations."

WGU, founded by the governors of 19 states, serves nearly 40,000 students. It offers bachelor's and master's degree programs in areas such as business, information technology, K-12 teacher education and health professions.

Missouri would be the fourth state to partner with WGU to establish a state-based university, along with Indiana, Texas and Washington. According to the release. WGU Missouri will be led by a chancellor in Missouri and an advisory board comprising corporate, community and education leaders statewide.

“WGU was created by governors to add affordable higher education capacity to state higher education systems with no ongoing impact to state budgets,” WGU President Robert Mendenhall said in the release. “The establishment of WGU Missouri will provide working adults in the state with a high-quality option for completing a bachelor’s or master’s degree on a schedule that fits their lives, at a price they can afford.”

According to WGU.edu, basic tuition for most programs run at about $2,890 per six-month term. Officials expect student enrollment at WGU Missouri to begin this spring.

On Friday, Nixon announced the university would receive a $4 million Community Development Block Grant to begin operations, including staffing, marketing and other startup costs. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also has provided a $750,000 grant supporting the school, the release said.[[In-content Ad]]

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