Gov. Brad Little last week agreed to partner with Western Governors University to expand access to online college.

The partnership will supplement online learning opportunities through Idaho’s public colleges, the governor’s office said in a statement. It is meant to target the roughly 165,000 people in Idaho who have taken some college courses but do not have a degree—particularly adult learners, those who are working full-time, first-generation students and rural Idahoans.

“My No. 1 goal is to make Idaho the place where all can have the opportunity to thrive, and the reality is our employers desperately need skilled workers in many different fields,” Little said in a statement. “Deepening our state’s collaboration with WGU supports my broader efforts to create opportunity and prosperity across Idaho.”

With the memorandum of understanding signed by Little, Idaho has committed to enlist relevant agencies—such as the Idaho Workforce Development Council and the Idaho State Board of Education—to promote and collaborate with the university. WGU will also work with the community college systems in Idaho “to provide seamless transfer and articulation of community college graduates” into four-year degree programs at the university, according to the governor’s office.

The average WGU student living in Idaho is 35 years old, according to the governor’s office, with 70% employed while they are enrolled.

Earlier this year, the Idaho State Board of Education made Idahoans who attend the fully online Western Governors University eligible for need-based financial assistance offered by the state, including the Adult Learner Opportunity Scholarship, the Idaho Opportunity Scholarship, the Idaho Gear UP Scholarship, the Idaho Post-Secondary Credit Scholarship and the Idaho Advanced Opportunities Grant.

“WGU was established to expand accessible, affordable postsecondary options for learners across the country,” said WGU President Scot Pulsipher in a statement. “This partnership will provide pathways to opportunities for many Idahoans who want to advance their careers and will also be a catalyst for workforce development in Idaho.”

Email the writer: gkauffman@mtexpress.com

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