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WGU Lassoes Texas

Western Governors University continued to live up to its name on Wednesday, as Texas Governor Rick Perry announced a partnership with the fast-growing online institution — and was promptly showered with praise from nearly everyone.

Western Governors, a regionally accredited, nonprofit university founded in 1997 by 18 politicians who held that office at that time, represents an alternative model of higher education that has garnered both praise and skepticism.

Aimed at working adults (the average student is 36), Western Governors confers bachelors and master’s degrees based on a student’s ability to demonstrate skills. There are no classrooms and no professors. Students learn online and mostly on their own, with light guidance from their advisers. They take proctored tests at local testing centers whenever they feel they are ready. Students pay tuition — between $2,890 and $4,250, depending on the program — every six months until they graduate, which 40 percent of them do within four years. (First-time, full-time students are considerably less successful, graduating at a 22 percent rate.)

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