Western Governors U. Might Have to Repay $700 Million in Student Aid

After an audit of Western Governors University, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General has concluded the university was ineligible to award financial aid to its students and should return more than $700 million to the government.

For more, see this Chronicle article.

As part of its decision, the office is recommending that the Department of Education require the nonprofit university to return $712,670,616 in federal Title IV financial-aid funds distributed to Western Governors students from July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2016, and possibly more to reflect the period since then.

At the crux of the office’s report is the finding that too many courses did not feature “regular and substantive interaction between students and their instructors,” as required by federal law covering distance education.

Scott D. Pulsipher, the university’s president, disputed the findings of the report when reached by phone and noted that the university’s programs are accredited.

“We believe that the OIG report is wrong,” he said. “It reflects a misinterpretation of the statutes and regulations that govern distance education, and while the OIG has an opinion, it doesn’t mean that opinion is right. I think WGU has long been focused on complying with the Department of Education regulations and guidelines, and we’ve been fully accredited by our Northwest Commission [on Colleges and Universities] since 2003. We would vehemently disagree with the OIG’s opinion.”

Western Governors is a competency-based online university.

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