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The College of Eastern Idaho and Western Governors University announced a new partnership Thursday to make it easier for students and staff members to continue their education beyond the two-year college.

The agreement will create a simplified pathway for students to transfer credits to the online nonprofit university after they graduate from CEI. It will also make CEI alumni and staff eligible to receive up to $2,000 off tuition and course fees from WGU’s Community College Partnership Scholarship.

“Talent is everywhere in the U.S., but opportunity is not always everywhere. It was important to make this available a few months ago, but now it’s even more important with the post-coronavirus economy,” said Tonya Drake, regional vice president of Western Governors University.

This agreement is the second partnership of the kind Western Governors University has done in Idaho, with a similar deal in place with College of Western Idaho for several years.

Initially, the program will be focused on the fields of study that already have the most overlap between the two schools: cybersecurity, information technology and nursing. Drake said there are currently about 120 students at WGU who are living in Idaho Falls and thousands more who had already made the transition between the two schools before this partnership.

Andrew Melton began studying computer networking at CEI in 2015, when it was still called Eastern Idaho Technical College. After two years of studying there, he transferred to Western Governors University to earn his associate degree.

“I think if I had gone straight to WGU I would have had a hard time, but having the hands-on experience first made the transition a lot easier. It’s self-paced so you really have to be motivated to keep moving forward,” Melton said.

When Melton’s credits transferred to WGU, he discovered he was more than 70% of the way to his bachelor’s degree. He completed his degree in system administration in one year, while he began working in the IT department at College of Eastern Idaho.

Classes taught by Western Governors University are entirely online and don’t have set schedules, allowing students to complete them at their own pace. For fields such as health care or teaching, WGU works to offer placements for students to receive the in-person segments of the class.

Brennen is the main education reporter for the Post Register. Contact him with news tips at 208-542-6711.