Regarding the Sept. 25 Education article “Watchdog wants college to return aid”:
I have read coverage of the report on Western Governors University issued by the Education Department’s inspector general. As a founding WGU trustee, I worked with other academic leaders to negotiate its eligibility for accreditation and for access to Title IV funds nearly 20 years ago. It was not easy.
In the 1990s, academic and government regulators resisted the idea of online institutions. Today, these programs are everywhere. Regulators resisted the idea that students might graduate based on demonstrated mastery of subject matters and skills. Today many institutions use competency-based learning.
The strongest objection to the WGU model was, and apparently still is, the unbundling of traditional faculty roles to provide more effective support for students.
WGU students cannot avoid regular contact with mentors: No degree plan, no assessment of knowledge gains, no degree. As for substance, students have access to rich curriculums and expert instructors at a range of partner institutions.
WGU has worked closely with the Education Department to comply with the law and the department’s regulations. And WGU earned initial accreditation from four regional accrediting commissions. The Office of Inspector General’s interpretation is wrong. Instead of setting the clock back, let’s find out why stale thinking and antiquated notions of what a university education should be are still standing in the way of needed innovation.
Clara M. Lovett, Chevy Chase
The writer is president emerita of Northern Arizona University.