Online University Gets $5M For Tennessee Recruiting Push

Gov. Bill Haslam (left) and WGU President Robert Mendenhall see the expansion in Tennessee as a way to make degrees more accessible. Credit Daniel Potter / WPLN

Gov. Bill Haslam (left) and WGU President Robert Mendenhall see the expansion in Tennessee as a way to make degrees more accessible. Credit Daniel Potter / WPLN

An online degree program adding an office in Tennessee says it will go from 700 students statewide to a couple thousand over the next few years.  Western Governors University has tapped a former vice president from Nashville State Community College as its first chancellor in the state.

On the heels of a similar deal where Missouri gave Western Governors University 4 million dollars to expand there earlier this year, Tennessee is kicking in 5 million.  The amount roughly equals WGU’s marketing campaign in Tennessee.  President Robert Mendenhall says they’re targeting adults who already have some college, but have not finished a degree.

“The truth is the budget for the first two years for this university is $30 million.  So the $5 million is just a little piece of that budget, right?  We’re contributing big piece of that to expand outreach in the state.  Marketing tends to be about 20 percent.”

Mendenhall says most of the program’s budget goes to paying faculty.  For six thousand dollars a year, WGU offers online programs in business, teaching, nursing, and information technology.

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Dr. Kimberly Estep, WGU Tennessee’s first chancellor, is a Ph.D of history and was vice president for academic affairs and student services at Nashville State Community College, hailing from Auburn University.  She notes WGU’s main headquarters gets regional accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, making its students eligible for federal aid.


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