A Message from WICHE Chair Dianne F. Harrison
Regional collaboration has been an essential part of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education’s (WICHE) mission since its founding in 1953. The organization’s roots trace back to a time when there simply were not enough professional schools to supply each state with the doctors, dentists, and veterinarians it required to meet the needs of a burgeoning post-World War II populace. A number of Western states had yet to build a medical or dental school; unless other states came to their aid and accepted nonresident students at their professional schools, their residents would go unserved. WICHE was created to help states in the West meet critical workforce needs by fostering interstate agreements and programs to broaden access, initially in three professional fields and over the years expanding to include a broad range of undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs.
Today, our region needs more skilled professionals than ever before, and needs them in a multitude of diverse fields. Our Professional Student Exchange program now includes 10 fields, from optometry to occupational therapy, providing a collaborative, cross-border assist to the states and people of our region. WICHE’s Western Regional Graduate Program offers tuition savings to students enrolling in 314 master’s, certificate and doctoral programs that run the gamut of disciplines. Broadening access to reduced cost undergraduate education (150 percent of resident tuition) is another of WICHE’s collaborative hallmarks; during academic year 2013-14 nearly 34,000 students benefited from the Western Undergraduate Exchange and saved an estimated $264.7 million in tuition. For the states where demand for higher education outstrips availability, WICHE’s valuable interstate programs ensure that capacity in other states can be tapped to benefit students throughout the West.
—Dianne F. Harrison