The Western Governors University has received an "Eligibility for Candidacy" from the Inter-Regional Accreditation Committee, moving the Internet school one step closer to accreditation.

"We're thrilled with the committee's decision and we're now full-steam ahead on the launch of the WGU Web site and our official opening this summer," said Jeff Livingston, chief operating officer of WGU.So far, 18 states are members of WGU. When the school is up and running, WGU will offer "competency-based" associate of arts and associate of applied science degrees.

The degrees do not require students to take specific courses. Instead, WGU students will be given credit for what they have learned, not where they learned it. Degrees will be awarded when students pass the required tests.

The other goal of WGU is to expand course offerings for students at existing public colleges by linking the schools. Students at Utah State University, for example, could take a biology course offered by Colorado State University.

Accreditation for the school has proved complicated because the four regional accrediting agencies that have jurisdiction within WGU's member states had to set up a special commission to review the application. The commission made the eligibility announcement Wednesday.

Within a year, WGU hopes to be granted candidacy, and after that, full accreditation, WGU marketing director Jeff Edwards said.

The school plans to open its virtual doors this summer, after a group of students has completed a pilot program next month.