Inequity stands as one of education’s greatest challenges
WGU’s flexible, online competency-based model, objective evaluation practices and mentoring program differ from traditional approaches to higher education and have reduced the cost of a bachelor’s degree.
Still, given these innovations, our institution’s graduation rates reflect national patterns of inequity for students of color, ethnic minorities, and low-income students. WGU invented itself around a new pedagogy and structure, but an equity gap still remains.
We owe it to our students and future students to find out why.
We’re creating a plan for a more equitable WGU
In its 2020 strategic planning initiative, WGU leadership made the decision to strive for true equity in both access and outcomes for students of color, ethnic minorities, low-income students, and other underserved populations.
As a nonprofit WGU affiliate, our team at WGU Labs shares this mission and seeks to make this strategic priority a reality for WGU students.
With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, WGU Labs will conduct the Plan for Equity research project at WGU.
Attaining equity means understanding it first
Since inequity remains one of higher education’s most pervasive problems, we recognize there are no easy answers or solutions. But we do know that moving closer to solutions means understanding the issue in all its complexity first.
Our primary outcomes include:
- Understanding the systems and processes facilitating inequity at our institution
- Examining the WGU student experience from application and enrollment to student services and graduation
- Improving outcomes for underserved student populations
- Creating and implementing a plan for equity over the next several years at WGU
STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS
We’ll view the problem from the students’ perspectives
In our plan, students will play a central role in creating change at WGU. We will organize our work into Discovery and Planning phases, engaging WGU’s diverse student population at every stage of the process.
- Talk with students and gather stories from the WGU community through interviews, focus groups, surveys (qualitative and quantitative)
- Perform a secondary data analysis to examine how the university’s structure and current programs may contribute to inequitable outcomes
- Share insights with WGU leadership to gain deeper understanding of students’ experiences with inequity at the institution
- Collaborate with leaders to turn insights into action, ensuring that student observations and recommendations lead to swift, meaningful change
- Work with students to identify actionable next steps (e.g. additional research or strategic opportunities for solution design)
ENGAGING IN INCLUSIVE RESEARCH
Collaboration fosters the greatest change
We know we cannot achieve true, sustained equity without including our students in the conversation. These discussions will ask us to confront difficult realities about the disparities our students face at our own institution.