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Western Governors University Receives Grant to Study Benefits of Online Education for Low-Income Students

Yesterday, respected online institution Western Governors University (WGU) issued a press release to announce its reception of a $1.2 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for the purposes of studying online degree programs and their potential role in improving graduation rates among young low-income and minority students.

This study comes on the heels of several recent observations. First of all, according to the press release, where the United States once led the world in higher education completion rates, it has now slipped to tenth place with little done by institutions "to actually help students earn the credentials they need to obtain well-paying jobs and a better life." Secondly is the observation, made by a recently completed Gates Foundation-funded study, that balancing a full-time job with the demanding schedule of a traditional college degree has proved to be one of the most common and largest problems for low-income young adults struggling to earn a degree.

Online schools, on the other hand, solve many of the problems created by traditional school from scheduling conflicts to acceleration for quick training. What's more, they have been steadily gaining acceptance -- according to WCU, "20 percent of higher education students now take at least one online course." Now, with this grant, the college will be able to research just how much an online school can help, and potentially work toward improving the online college experience.

This study is expected to run until September of 2010.

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