The only state-endorsed, online university in Washington helps rip down the barriers to a college degree.

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Dan Sweetwood is a successful professional. He’s married. And he’s reached a stage in his life when even his kids have kids. But the day he graduated with a college degree, he wore a youthful grin across his face.

Dan’s like a lot of midcareer adults; he gave college a try many years ago, but it just didn’t pan out. Instead he got a job, worked hard, and climbed the ranks of his industry. He eventually landed a decent, full-time position at Microsoft.

But, in time, Dan’s career ambitions were stifled, because he didn’t have a university credential.

“Even though I was fortunate to be employed,” says Dan, “my options were limited because I didn’t have a bachelor’s degree. I wasn’t confident to pursue jobs that would’ve been more gratifying personally.”

Dan knew what he needed, but the only thing longer than the hours he was working was the list of reasons why college wasn’t a possibility for him.

According to Dan, he didn’t have time to fight traffic, find parking, and sit through lectures at a brick-and-mortar institution. He didn’t have money to pay skyrocketing tuition costs. And he was raising three daughters and needed to be around for them.

Then one day an online banner ad shined a ray of hope on Dan. The ad was for WGU Washington – the only state-endorsed, online university in Washington – and Dan decided to click on it. The more he clicked the clearer it became; he’d found an educational option that ripped down the barriers to a college degree.

He realized tuition at WGU Washington was much lower than most other universities. Dan could get a high-quality education without stacking up piles of debt.

WGU Washington is online, which allowed Dan to study anywhere and anytime. Plus, it’s competency-based, meaning Dan’s progress wasn’t measured by how many hours or semesters he sat in a classroom. Instead, once he was able to prove he had mastered the required knowledge and skills, he advanced.

And since the competency-based model allowed Dan to move through his studies at his own pace, he had the choice to accelerate toward graduation – an option that saves time and money.

“This was particularly attractive as there is no limit to what you can accomplish in a term,” Dan says. “If life is challenging, you can complete the minimum requirements and take breaks. But to me, realizing I could have a degree in a relative short time was very appealing.”

And when the day came that Dan transitioned from student to college graduate, his smile showed exactly what his accomplishment means to him.

Today, he’s got a job he loves and a sense of pride knowing he achieved what once seemed impossible.

And he knows he’s a wonderful role model to his kids – and their kids.

“It was hard to encourage my daughters to value education when I didn’t have a degree myself. Now, I’m an example that it’s never too late and that, with determination, it’s possible to graduate.”

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