All About Competency: One Graduate’s (Very Quick) Success Story


Our students and graduates often tell us their reasons for choosing to earn a degree at WGU Tennessee. Most cite affordability, convenience, and quality as the key factors in their decision. Many credit our competency-based education model, which allows adult learners to move through the curriculum by demonstrating what they know and can do (competency) rather than simply spending time in a classroom accumulating credit hours.

Since each WGU Tennessee student is unique—with a unique background, work history, and level of knowledge—the competency-based model is ideal. Students are empowered to personalize their education, moving rapidly through material they already know so they can focus on what they still need to learn.

Jacob Eastep, a WGU Tennessee alumnus who recently earned his M.A. in Mathematics Education in a single term (six months), personifies the value of competency-based learning. Currently teaching algebra and geometry to ninth-graders in Crossville, Tenn., Jacob was able to move rapidly through his degree program using the knowledge and experience he had accrued throughout his career.

When a co-worker at the high school where he teaches mentioned her husband’s positive experience in a WGU teaching degree program, Jacob wanted to know more.

“A co-worker of mine told me that her husband was getting his teaching license through WGU Tennessee, and that they also offer master’s degree programs,” he said. “When she told me the price for a single term, I couldn’t believe it—it just seemed too good to be true.”

Once Jacob did some research and confirmed that what he had heard was in fact true, he got in touch with a WGU Tennessee enrollment counselor. He made the necessary preparations and saved enough money to pay for a single term. Realizing he could quickly earn competencies for the subject matter he had already mastered, Jacob confidently set about earning his master’s degree.

Jacob’s story is by no means typical. Most WGU Tennessee graduate students take three to four six-month terms to finish their master’s degrees; the average time to a bachelor’s degree is about three years. Jacob was able to finish his degree program in near-record time, however, because of our competency-based learning model. Already possessing knowledge of rigorous subjects like finite mathematics, college geometry, and calculus, he was able to fly through his degree program by proving his competency in these areas—not an easy feat, but possible for a Night Owl with the drive, determination, and math know-how that Jacob brought to his program.

“I decided to get my master’s degree now because it was feasible at WGU Tennessee’s price,” he said. “If not for the affordability, I might have put it off for years. Since the price was so low, however, the raise I’ll receive at my job will recoup the cost of tuition in one year.”

Jacob says the raise at work has been nice, but even nicer is his how much deeper his knowledge of math has become.

“It’s one thing to solve math problems on your own, but to write about them the way you do in this degree program has greatly enhanced my understanding of the material,” he said.

Jacob’s wife is currently in school, but once she graduates and gets a job he plans to put his teaching career on hold and enter a university full time to begin work on a doctorate.

“I plan to one day earn my Ph.D. and teach at a college.”

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