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Originally published May 29, 2011 at 4:00 PM | Page modified May 31, 2011 at 12:25 AM

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Western Governors University makes good call with Floten

The choice of Bellevue College President Jean Floten to lead the Washington state arm of Western Governors University carries credibility and innovation.

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WASHINGTON'S first fully online university makes a strong play for academic heft and innovation by tapping Bellevue College President Jean Floten as its chancellor.

Floten brings gravitas and assertive leadership, a perfect fit for the big plans of Western Governors University-Washington. The nonprofit, online university created in 1997 by governors of 19 Western states, including this one, has a small footprint here.

Floten led Bellevue College for 23 years, making the school an early adopter of online education and steering its foray into four-year degrees. The school dropped the word "community" from its name and now offers bachelor's degrees in some subjects.

Broadening educational options is something Floten does well.

The reality is Washington does not have enough room at its four-year universities for all of the students seeking bachelor's degree. The University of Washington and other schools are saying no to top students. Simultaneously, a shifting economy makes a college degree a necessity.

Students with limited options tend to be vulnerable to predatory for-profit schools and offers of quick degrees online. WGU offers a welcome shift with a smart learning model based on competency and one-on-one coaching, guidance and support.

A new agreement with Washington's community colleges will make it easier for graduates to transfer credits and offers them a 5 percent tuition discount

There is no threat to bricks-and-mortar institutions. There will always be students who prefer the full-meal deal of a campus experience. But for students juggling work, family and other responsibilities, WGU-Washington offers an option with similar academic quality and rigor.

That is because the university carries the same level of accreditation as Stanford University and other institutions. It has 20,000 students nationwide and more than 50 bachelor's and master's degree programs in subjects such as business, health, information technology and teaching.

Under Floten's guidance, an online university opens up a much-needed educational route.

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