News Brief - 9/15/16 Newest grads add to ranks of WGU Texas alumni who contribute to a strong Texas workforce AUSTIN In five years, WGU Texas has changed the face of higher education in Texas, introducing competency-based education that fits the needs of today’s new majority of nontraditional students. Since the non-profit university launched in Texas in 2011, more than 5,300 graduates have obtained their undergraduate or graduate degrees, helping to address the state’s critical workforce needs in high demand fields like IT, health care and education. And, on Saturday, Sept. 17th, during the university’s annual commencement exercise at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, another 1,305 Texans join the ranks of alumni of WGU Texas. “We know today’s college students look a lot different than they did 10, 15, or 20 years ago. Today, nontraditional students are the new majority, not just in Texas but across the U.S. They are college students who juggle full-time jobs, family responsibilities and limited budgets,” said Veronica Vargas Stidvent, Chancellor of WGU Texas. “At the five-year mark, WGU Texas is proud of our track record of delivering high-quality higher education solutions that are designed specifically with these non-traditional students. We’re especially proud of this year’s class of graduates, who will no doubt make their own significant contributions to their workplaces and communities.” WGU Texas graduates represent the diversity of our state: Thirty-nine percent of the 2015 WGU Texas graduates are first-generation college graduates; The average age of this year’s WGU Texas graduate is 40 years old; The oldest WGU Texas graduate this year is 73 years old and the youngest, 21; Ninety-three percent of WGU Texas’ 2016 graduates are 27 years of age or older. Graduates at this year’s WGU Texas Commencement earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the fields of information technology (IT), business, K-12 teacher education and health professions, including nursing. The average time for this year’s graduate to complete a bachelor’s degree is 2 years, 5 months, while a graduate program averages 1 year, 11 months. “The face of higher education is changing, and innovators like WGU Texas are helping to reshape what a high-quality university education can be, both for students and the employers who are looking for skilled workers” said Manny Flores, CEO and Managing Partner of LatinWorks, who will deliver the WGU Texas Commencement keynote address. “These professionals are now ready for the jobs and promotions that await them, the opportunities that lie ahead are truly boundless for these bright, committed students.” In addition to the keynote address by Flores, the WGU Texas Commencement ceremony featured four student speakers who embody the students WGU Texas strives to serve: Jose Victorino (Austin), was always fascinated by science and medicine at an early age, and early studies in biology and work in the ICU eventually lead him to his true calling in the computer and high tech field. He earned his B.S. in IT Security this year and is nearing completion of his M.S. in Cybersecurity Assurance, as well. RaQuita Weeks-Lee (Cedar Hill) overcame many personal obstacles on her path to continuing her nurse education. RaQuita, who works as a clinical nurse educator and psychiatric registered nurse, experienced the passing of her own mother during her studies and later suffered a mild stroke and heart attack that left her unable to speak for a period of time. She credits her WGU Texas family, mentor and immediate family who stepped in to support and encourage her to stay in track for her degree, an M.S. in Nursing - Education. Reginald Saxon (Sugar Land) grew up in a lower-middle class family and lost his dad three days before his 16th birthday. An Air Force veteran with 10 years of service to his country, Reginald said never getting his college degree “gnawed away” at him for too long. By obtaining his B.S. in Business Management, Reginald says he’s proud that his education now matches his experience and looks forward to having his mother watch him finally walk across that stage. Rachael Black (Weatherford) describes herself as a science nerd, the oldest of six children in her family and the first in her family to graduate from college. Rachel, who earned her B.A. in Science Education, enters her first year of teaching this fall. A successful mom of two young boys, her early life was full of challenges, but she hopes to instill her life lessons and that of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax in her own students, “It’s not about what it is, it’s about what it can become.” Follow the 2016 Commencement online using hashtag, #WGUTX16. WGU Texas uses an innovative approach called competency-based education, which measures learning rather than time spent in class. Competency-based education is a good fit for working business professionals because it allows them to study and learn at their own pace and advance as soon as they have mastered course materials. Students have 24/7 access to their course materials, and faculty members provide one-on-one support. Terms are six months long, and students pay a flat rate of $3,000 per term for most programs, regardless of the number of courses completed. Because WGU Texas programs are self-paced, many students are able to accelerate their studies, finishing their degree sooner, which saves them both time and money. As a result, the average time to complete a bachelor's degree at WGU Texas is less than three years. For more information about the WGU Texas programs, please visit http://texas.wgu.edu.