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Record Number of WGU Texas Graduates Step up to Meet Texas Talent Dilemma at Saturday Commencement

News Brief - 10/7/15

State Representative John Zerwas to deliver commencement address at online university’s fourth annual commencement ceremony in Austin

AUSTIN — An estimated 3.7 million Texans have some college, but no degree and the state’s workforce is feeling the pinch of that talent dilemma, according to Veronica Vargas Stidvent, Chancellor of WGU Texas, an online, non-profit university. As of Saturday, October 17th, 1,102 Texans are no longer part of that statistic as they graduate from WGU Texas, which offers affordable, competency-based education geared toward working adults. These professionals, according to Stidvent, represent the “new majority” of higher education students. The 2015 WGU Texas Commencement will be held on Saturday, October 17 at 9:45 at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

“Nontraditional college students juggle full-time jobs, family responsibilities, and limited budgets,” said Stidvent. “We are proud to see a record-number of WGU Texas graduates balancing life responsibilities while earning the degrees they need to improve their lives and advance their careers. WGU Texas recognizes the face of the new majority in higher education and is proud to offer high-quality higher education solutions that are designed specifically with these students in mind.”

Nearly 40 percent of the 2015 WGU Texas graduates are first-generation college graduates. The average age of this year’s graduate is 40 years old, with the oldest graduate being 72 years old. From this class, the average time to complete a bachelor’s degree was just over two years, while completing a master’s degree was just under two years.

Graduates at this year’s WGU Texas Commencement earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the high-demand fields of information technology (IT), business, K-12 teacher education and health professions, including nursing.

“WGU Texas graduates make a significant contribution to the talent dilemma in our state by earning the degrees that Texas employers need,” said State Representative and Chairman of the House Higher Education Committee John Zerwas, M.D., who will deliver the WGU Texas Commencement keynote address. “These professionals are now ready for the jobs and promotions that await them, opportunities made possible by their higher education accomplishments.”

In addition to the keynote address by State Representative John Zerwas, M.D., the WGU Texas Commencement ceremony will feature four student speakers who embody the students WGU Texas strives to serve:

LuTonya Ray (Austin), a full-time working mother of two, will share her educational journey and inspiration to earn her Bachelor of Science in Marketing Management. Ray was drawn to WGU Texas because it offered affordable access to “high-quality education based on competency in an environment geared toward working adults.”

Georjean Burnell (Hondo), will graduate with a Master of Science in Nursing — Leadership and Management degree and will share with fellow graduates how she was able to earn multiple degrees while juggling life as a mother, wife, and executive in a healthcare company.

Tracy Tanwar (Dallas), is an assistant principal who graduated with a Master of Science Curriculum and Instruction degree. She’ll share with fellow graduates how she was able to incorporate all she learned during her WGU Texas degree program into her full-time job in real time. She says, “Everything I learned in my classes has benefited my school and my students and I couldn’t be more appreciative.”

Ryan Egesdahl (Houston), will graduate with a Bachelor of Science Information Technology — Security degree. Ryan will share with fellow graduates his desire to find the right fit to earning a degree. He was interested in WGU Texas for its affordability and the competency-based model. As Ryan says, “Everything I learned while earning my degree has helped me better understand all aspects of my job in IT.”

For more information about WGU Texas programs, please visit

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