Tonya Drake, WGU Washington’s chancellor and regional vice president, left, and Justin Guillory, president of Northwest Indian College. COURTESY PHOTO, WGU

Tonya Drake, WGU Washington’s chancellor and regional vice president, left, and Justin Guillory, president of Northwest Indian College. COURTESY PHOTO, WGU

Kent-based WGU Washington partners with Northwest Indian College

Agreement encourages tribal community graduates to earn university degrees

Kent-based WGU Washington has partnered with Northwest Indian College to offer graduates of the Bellingham-based college pathways to online university degree programs.

The partnership, announced Jan. 7, extends a generous transfer credit policy to Northwest Indian College alumni enrolling at WGU Washington – meaning more of their hard work will be recognized, saving money and allowing them to graduate sooner. Additionally, those individuals, plus college staff, will be eligible to apply for scholarships valued up to $3,000.

WGU Washington is the locally based affiliate of nationally recognized Western Governors University (WGU). The agreement with Northwest Indian College is the university’s first, formal partnership with an institution dedicated to serving reservation communities.

“Our institutions are driven by similar missions: to strengthen communities and help individuals improve their lives through education,” said Tonya Drake, WGU Washington’s chancellor and regional vice president, in a press release. “My family heritage is Cowichan, and I identify as First Nations. I am honored NWIC chose to partner with WGU Washington.”

Washington has the eighth largest Native American population in the country, according to an email from a WGU spokesperson. Native American communities continue to face obstacles to educational equity, as 28% of the general population holds a college degree, only 13% of Native Americans do.

Headquartered in Kent, WGU Washington is the state’s only legislatively endorsed online university. It offers more than 60 bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business, IT, teacher education and health professions, including nursing. Its innovative, competency-based education model allows students to study and learn whenever and wherever it is convenient and at a pace that fits their lifestyles.

“WGU Washington, like NWIC, is committed to student success and empowering students to achieve their educational goals,” said Justin Guillory, president of the college. “It’s also set up so students don’t have to leave their communities and strive to pursue a university degree. This partnership creates an opportunity for students to obtain quality, in-demand degrees without putting their lives – or their families’ lives – on hold. That’s vital as we continue to provide educational pathways for students to enhance their lives and our Tribal communities.”

Northwest Indian College is the only regional tribal college in the U.S. and the only accredited tribal college in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities recently extended the college’s accreditation to include distance learning, so students can continue their education remotely. Located on the Lummi Indian reservation near Bellingham, the college operates six, full-service sites at reservations in Washington and Idaho. The student body is represented by over 130 tribes from across the country.

About WGU Washington

WGU Washington is an online, competency-based university designed to expand access to higher education for Washington residents. In 2011, the Washington state Legislature created WGU Washington in partnership with nationally recognized Western Governors University.

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