ASU recognized for advancing universal access to learning with Eduventures Innovation Award

Group of three people posing for photo with middle person holding award

Lukas Wenrick (middle), director of Universal Learner Courses Pathways in ASU's Learning Enterprise, accepts the 2023 Innovation Award at the Eduventures Summit in Boston on June 15. Also pictured is Cara Quackenbush (left), executive vice president of research for Encoura, the educational data science and research organization that hosts the summit; and Dennis Syracuse, division president for Encoura. Photo by Taylor Dauphin

What if college was within reach for everyone?

That’s what Arizona State University’s Learning Enterprise has set out to achieve since its inception — and higher education leaders have noticed.

In a year packed with new and growing education initiatives, Learning Enterprise was awarded the Eduventures 2023 Innovation Award for its novel ideas focused on advancing access to universal learning across all stages of life.

The award, presented on June 15 at the Eduventures Summit in Boston, showcases the achievements of individuals and organizations leading impactful strategies to improve three areas integral to higher education: enrollment strategy, student experience and learning outcomes.

In the award’s seventh year, a panel of higher education leaders and advisors commended ASU Learning Enterprise’s efforts to make high-quality education more attainable and accessible for learners – including those who may have previously been unable to attend college. 

Through a growing portfolio of programs and initiatives, Learning Enterprise currently delivers education to more than 310,000 learners across online courses, boot camps, certificates and workshops.

Unlocking Universal Pathways

One of ASU Learning Enterprise’s landmark efforts, Universal Pathways, allows students to earn college credit online in an affordable, low-risk way through Universal Learner Courses. One Universal Pathways program, Earned Admission, allows college hopefuls to take first-year courses for a $25 entry fee. If they pass with a 2.75 GPA or higher and are happy with their grade, they can pay $400 to turn it into college credit. All courses are designed and assessed by world-class ASU faculty. 

Through Earned Admission, learners can gain full admission to ASU or another higher education institution – and bring their course credits with them.

“We are reimagining the traditional college admissions process with Universal Pathways,” said Scott Weatherford, executive director of Universal Pathways. “We want to open doors for aspiring students so they have the opportunity to pursue the future they want, regardless of their previous academic success.” 

Giving high schoolers a head start

Even high school students can take advantage of Universal Pathways to kickstart their college degrees through Accelerate ASU, a program that provides access to Universal Learner Courses to high schools across the nation. In a supportive environment, students can complete first-year courses before applying to college. 

Through Accelerate ASU, flexible courses cost significantly less than the average in-state course at a public four-year university and, with admissions open to everyone, the program is serving as a new roadmap for advancing access to education while making the academic journey easier to navigate. 

“We’re creating new opportunities for lifelong learners by meeting them where they are and giving them the opportunities and support to achieve their goals,” said Maria Anguiano, executive vice president of ASU’s Learning Enterprise. “Our aim is to transform the way we define access to education and empower people to continue to change their lives – in whatever direction they see fit.”

Written by Jennifer Moore and Samantha Becker 

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