By Sonya Hamasaki, CNN
Los Angeles (CNN) – After working for a credit union in Southern California for 20 years, Dawn Moore wanted to be promoted. But to advance in the company, Moore needed a bachelor’s degree. What stopped her from going back to school? A full-time job, a family and a tight budget.
“I needed a university that was accredited, worked with my schedule, and could work from home,” said Moore, 55. “I felt just my age and with everything I was going to do in my life, I was doing it Not.” I want to go to a campus, sit in a classroom and do the traditional brick and mortar. “
But then she discovered Western Governors University.
The university was founded by a group of governors from the west who wanted to make education available to adult students with busy lives. It is a non-profit, fully accredited online university, an award not given to all online locations. It’s a school without borders – there are no teachers, the curricula are personalized and students can proceed at their own pace.
This type of flexibility attracts adults who have the time. The average student is 36 years old and 70% of them have a full-time job.
“What makes us most unique is that we are competency-based. We actually measure ‘learning’ rather than ‘time’,” said Robert W. Mendenhall, president of Western Governors University. “So for each degree we define what the graduates should know and be able to do. If they demonstrate it, they graduate – regardless of how many classes they have attended.”
Another deal breaker? Costs. At traditional universities, tuition and tuition fees can go up to $ 30,000 per year. Under the western governors, students pay a flat rate of $ 3,000 per semester, which equates to $ 6,000 per year. Instead of paying hundreds of dollars per unit like most other schools, students take as many courses as they can manage for one flat rate. This arrangement enables those in the fast lane to speed through their classes and save valuable dollars and cents.
Michael Norwood is an Army reservist whose duty as drill sergeant meant traveling at least twice a month. “If I did a 12-15 hour shift, I could go back to my room and get in a couple (hours) before I had to call them for a night and do it all over again,” he said.
Norwood received his bachelor’s degree in business administration while training the army recruits. “The school also helps people who are in combat, actually in the field and out of civilization,” he said. “They have the opportunity to graduate and are not penalized for missing a class.”
Upon receiving his diploma, Norwood immediately jumped back into class with Western Governors – this time to do an MBA.
Western Governors offers degrees in four areas: business, information technology, teacher training, and health care. Students work with a mentor to help them with the class and advise them on when to increase or decrease their stress, depending on what’s going on in their life.
For Moore, the illness interrupted her studies three months after enrolling.
“I found out I had colon cancer,” she said. “The western governors let me do my classes while I recovered. It wasn’t a pressurized situation. I don’t think a traditional school would really let you take a break.”
Moore, whose cancer is in remission, said she was focused on using her studies to help drive recovery.
And two years later? Moore graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration – and she was promoted.