Undersecretary of education tells WGU grads to 'continue being pioneers'

Published: Saturday, July 12 2014 4:50 p.m. MDT

The average age of Saturday's graduates is 39, with the youngest being 20 and the oldest, 75 years old, according to Mendenhall. He said 40 percent of the degrees conferred went to first-generation graduates, who had an average completion time of about two years, six months for an undergraduate degree, and one year, 10 months for a graduate degree.

Mitchell said the experiences and memories of WGU students are likely "radically different" than those of students attending traditional "brick and mortar" higher education institutions, but no less valuable.

WGU offers courses in business, health professions, information technology and teacher education. It was founded by 19 governors of western states, led by Utah's then-governor, Mike Leavitt. The school is based in Salt Lake City, but enrolls more than 46,000 students from across the country.

The school doesn't boast a campus of multiple buildings, doesn't have a football team or dining hall, but Mitchell told students that WGU is one of the only universities in the country that has figured out how to serve students who are employed full-time, live in rural areas or are minorities, or are first-generation college students.

WGU, he said, has also been "innovative" with the cost of higher education. The school charges a flat rate — less than $3,000 — for each 6-month term.

"This is the future," Mitchell said. He encouraged graduates to push others to participate in higher education.

"Your success is a powerful example of what is possible," he said. "May there be no boundaries to your achievement and no limits to your dreams. You are pioneers of the 21st Century."

Email: wleonard@deseretnews.com; mromero@deseretnews.com

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