Washington State University (WSU) is a Research I institution, offering bachelor's, master's and doctorate degree programs. Founded in 1890, WSU is the state's land-grant university with the main campus in Pullman and three branch campuses in Spokane, Tri-Cities, and Vancouver. The University is accredited through the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges. In addition to the Pullman campus and branch campuses, WSU provides access to students statewide through Learning Centers; a two-way audio and video interactive telecommunications system; and undergraduate, graduate, and professional distance degree programs.
WSU offers distance education courses through two basic formats. First, semester-based courses are offered via the Internet through collaborative learning spaces or via preproduced video with course guides and listservs. Most semester-based courses are designed to start at the beginning of a semester and to be completed at the end of a 16-week semester. Second, flexible-enrollment courses typically have an extensive course guide available online or in print; courses may be started any day and are to be completed within a year.
WSU's distance education programs include several degree-completion programs that are designed primarily for students who have completed the equivalent of the first two years of college. These programs, which are delivered online, include:
- Bachelor of Arts degrees in Social Sciences, Human Development, Humanities, Criminal Justice, and Business Administration, with majors in Management and Operations or Management Information Systems (MIS);
- Bachelor of Science degrees in Agriculture and Nursing for Registered Nurses (RN to BSN).
Graduate-level distance education degree programs include:
- Master of Science in Agriculture;
- Master of Engineering Management.
All participants who joined the Demonstration Program in 1999 were given waivers of the 50 percent rules. Washington State University has these waivers, but is unlikely to need them. WSU was also given the waiver of the definition of "full-time student" to the extent that it precludes a correspondence student from being considered a full-time student.
These waivers were extended to WSU's distance degree programs to enable students to obtain bachelor's degrees in Social Sciences, Business Administration, Human Development, Criminal Justice, Agriculture, and Education.
Financial Aid Issues
The fact that WSU offers its distance education courses in two formats (semester-based and flexible enrollment) presents some challenges for financial aid. WSU considers all courses, both term-based and flexible enrollment, in the calculation of a student's total credit enrollment. WSU assigns flexible enrollment courses to a particular semester, even though students have up to a year to complete these courses. Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) is assessed at the end of the semester to which the course is assigned and the course is not used again in the calculation of financial aid. This might result in SAP difficulties for some students unable to complete their flexible enrollment courses within a semester.
Because WSU distance programs are degree-completion programs, students must take lower-division prerequisites at other institutions, typically the community college in the state. WSU and the Washington Community and Technical College System schools work closely together to enable students who have matriculated in one of the WSU degree-completion programs to take lower- and upper-division courses during the same enrollment period. However, WSU is on semesters while all the System colleges follow the quarter system. In addition, the different institutions have different start dates, making tracking of course enrollment information at other schools in which WSU students may be enrolled complicated. To address this problem, WSU releases aid at the start of its semester. This is a workable solution for students enrolled in WSU in fall and spring semesters, and in community college courses in fall and spring quarters. However, it can cause financial difficulty for students enrolled in community college courses during the winter quarter, since those courses begin earlier than WSU's.
Additional Goals for Participation
WSU expressed great interest in examining methods to develop and standardize the cost of attendance for distance learners and offered to work closely with Department of Education staff in conducting this review.
WSU established six additional goals. Among these are: increasing access for non-traditional students to degree-completion programs; improving student satisfaction with the financial aid process; and improving retention and graduation rates.
Consortial Agreements, Partnerships, and Other Relationships
WSU's Distance Degree Programs has developed several special collaborative programs with Washington Community Colleges and other land grant universities. The Collaborative Teacher Education Program (CTEP) is a 2+2 program designed for students who complete an AA degree and then choose to pursue the requirements for a teaching degree in elementary education (K-8) through WSU. CTEP is a full-time program delivered entirely on site at community colleges throughout Washington. WSU has also formed articulation agreements with two Washington community colleges (Edmonds and Bellevue) that offer online courses that lead to an AA degree and fulfill core requirements for the WSU BA in Business Administration.
Other Relevant Information
WSU's Office of Student Financial Aid is a participant in the Quality Assurance Program and Experimental Sites Program.
Demonstration Program Cohort
Washington State University joined the Distance Education Demonstration Program in July 1999 with the initial cohort. WSU and the Washington Community and Technical College System entered as a consortium. In 2003 the Community and Technical Colleges opted not to extend their participation in the project for the 2004 year.