News Releases

Legislature Establishes New Online University for Washington State, 4/22/11

Governor Gregoire signs bill creating WGU Washington

Olympia, WA — On April 22, the state of Washington established its first nonprofit, online university when Governor Chris Gregoire signed HB 1822, creating WGU Washington. The new university, developed through a partnership with Western Governors University, will be recognized as a state baccalaureate and master’s degree-granting university. WGU Washington will offer online, competency-based degrees and provide enhanced access to postsecondary education for Washington residents, including dislocated workers and placebound students. Washington’s newest university will be self-supporting and will not receive state funding.

WGU Washington is a wholly-owned subsidiary of nationally and regionally accredited Western Governors University. The online university offers more than 50 bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Business, Teacher Education, Information Technology, and Health Professions, including Nursing. WGU Washington’s academic model is unique—rather than earning degrees based on credit hours or time spent in class, students are required to demonstrate competency in degree subject matter. They advance by writing papers, completing assignments, and passing exams that demonstrate their knowledge. This allows students to move quickly through areas where they have prior work or academic experience and focus on the areas they still need to learn. Learning is individualized and guided by the one-on-one support of faculty who serve as mentors. Degree programs are rigorous and challenging but designed to allow students to schedule their studies to accommodate work and family obligations. Tuition is affordable, approximately $6,000 per year for most degree programs, and federal financial aid is available.

Sponsored by Senator Jim Kastama for the Senate version of the bill and by Representative Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney in the House, HB1822 highlights the need to increase the number of college graduates in the state. According to the bill, by 2018, two-thirds of Washington jobs will require at least some postsecondary education.

“Once again, Washington State is becoming a national leader by creating a virtual state university that offers accreditation and accessibility to working adults,” Senator Kastama said. “My hope is to make our state the global innovator in quality online education."

“I was pleased to sponsor this important bill in the House,” said Representative Kenney. “Establishing this new university for Washington is truly a win-win—we’re making it possible for more of our residents to get the degrees they need to build their careers and improve their lives, and we’re doing it without adding to the burden on our higher education budget.”

“WGU Washington offers our residents another option for finishing a bachelor’s or master’s degree,” said Governor Gregoire. “This new university, with its flexible, innovative learning model gives those with work and family obligations the opportunity to get the education they need.”

Sam Smith, president emeritus of Washington State University, has long been associated with WGU and played a key role in its development. “As one of the founders and as a member of WGU’s Board of Trustees since the university’s inception, I highly recommend WGU Washington as a quality institution,” said Smith. “This new university provides the state of Washington with another quality higher education alternative—one that takes advantage of 21st century technology and a new learning approach designed to address the needs of working adults.”

The first students will begin at WGU Washington on July 1, 2011, with new students beginning on the first day of each month following. Tuition is charged for six-month terms at a flat rate of $2,890 per term for most programs, regardless of the number of courses taken.

For more information, visit the WGU Washington website,

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