Are You Competent? Prove It
Career College Central summary:
In March of this year, the Department of Education invited colleges to submit programs for consideration under Title IV aid that do not rely on seat time. In response, public, private and for-profit institutions alike have rushed out programs that are changing the college degree in fundamental ways; they are based not on time in a course but on tangible evidence of learning, a concept known as competency-based education.
This August, at Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pa., President Obama issued a call to improve college affordability that went beyond boilerplates about loans and Pell grants. He proposed a rating system that would attach federal higher education dollars to a college’s cost effectiveness and student performance.
A new wave of innovators is following his injunction. College leaders say that by focusing on what people learn, not how or when they learn it, and by taking advantage of the latest technology, they can save students time and lower costs. There are 37 million Americans with some college but no degree, and political leaders at the local, state and national levels are heralding new competency-based programs as the best way to get them marketable diplomas.
The Lumina Foundation has been one of the champions of the approach. To help develop a blueprint for other universities, Lumina just announced a $1.2 million grant to support an evaluation of the University of Wisconsin’s competency-based program, set to begin in January. But not everyone is so excited about the programs. Many are raising alarms that these untested offerings will limit or undermine the power of a university degree.
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THE NEW YORK TIMES