Breaking news on colleges using competency-based programs in which students learn at their own pace

March 30, 2013

This just in!  The US Dept of Ed just issued a press release “Education Department Releases Guidance on Providing Title IV Eligibility for Competency-Based Learned Programs”.

The news is that colleges “that offer competency-based programs in which students learn at their own pace – but that currently do not offer federal student aid” can do so.  [Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 provides federally funded financial aid, such as Perkins Loans, Pell Grants, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, and Subsidized and Unsubsidized Direct Loans.]

The release notes that “[i]n recent years, some institutions have recognized the potential of innovative learning models and developed creative programs that allow students the flexibility to learn at the pace that makes sense for them, both in career-technical and degree programs. Students progress in these competency-based programs by demonstrating their achievement of specific skills or knowledge. Most competency-based programs fit into traditional learning models that measure progress in credit or clock hours, but an increasing number do not. Some of these programs would like to offer their students title IV aid – including Pell grants and federal student loans – but have been unable to do so.”

Wow – some colleges are moving to competency (read “proficiency”) where students demonstrate skills or knowledge (not seat time).  Fantastic.  They get it.  Seat time doesn’t benefit anyone!  Proficiency does!

The problem has been that colleges that do competency-based education thought they couldn’t offer federal student aid.  Today’s letter addresses their concerns and provides guidance on developing programs that are likely to be title IV eligible!!

Don’t believe me?  Here’s what the US Dept of Ed press release says:

“This is a key step forward in expanding access to affordable higher education,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “We know many students and adult learners across the country need the flexibility to fit their education into their lives or work through a class on their own pace, and these competency-based programs offer those features – and they are often accessible to students anytime, anywhere. By being able to access title IV aid for these programs, many students may now be able to afford higher education.”

The press release says the US Department of Education  “notes the potential of competency-based approaches to shorten the time to degree completion and reduce costs, while providing an opportunity for students and workers to develop the knowledge and skills they need to compete for high-paying jobs or advance in the workplace. Going forward, the Department plans to collaborate with accrediting agencies and the broader higher education community to encourage innovative approaches, identify promising practices, and gather feedback to inform future policies.”

Colleges are finally catching on!  Now let’s look for rapid adoption of proficiency-based (competency-based) teaching and learning in the public and private K-12 world!

Posted by Mr. Mark Siegel on Wednesday March 20, 2013 at 10:31AM

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