The House Higher Education Committee on Monday recommended passage of a substitute bill intended to increase online access to college programs through Western Governor’s University (WGU).
Under SHB 1822, WGU-Washington would offer “online, competency-based degrees and provide enhanced access to postsecondary education for all Washington students, including dislocated workers and place-bound students.”
Unlike the original version of the bill, the substitute bill specifically names WGU-Washington as the institution that would partner with the state to deliver online programs to Washington students. WGU is a private, non-profit institution created in the mid-1990s by 19 U.S. Governors, including former Washington Gov. Mike Lowry.
Under the substitute bill, WGU-Washington would be allowed to operate under Washington’s Degree Granting Institutions Act as an independent, self supporting, non-profit university not eligible for state funding
WGU is not currently authorized under the Degree-Granting Institutions Act, but it is recognized as an accredited institution whose degrees are legal in Washington.
Institutions not exempt from the Act are authorized by the HECB if they maintain offices in Washington, offer courses in the state (online courses from out of state typically don’t apply), or advertise and recruit specifically to Washington citizens.
The prime sponsor of SHB 1822 is Rep. Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney of Seattle. A companion bill, SB 5136, offered by Sen. Jim Kastama of Puyallup, had a public hearing in the Senate Committee on Higher Education & Workforce Development on Feb. 1.