July 10, 2014
Today H.R. 3136, the Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act, was advanced by the Education & the Workforce Committee, along with two other bipartisan bills to reform the nation’s higher education system. Please see the committee’s news release on today’s decision here.
Capella is very encouraged by the passage of this bipartisan legislation. The cost of obtaining a degree has risen dramatically over the last decade. To help counter these rising costs and provide a less costly, more effective route to earning a degree, Capella and other like-minded institutions are leading the field in the development of new models of education that can measure students’ actual learning rather than seat time. Models like FlexPath, which utilizes direct assessment, frees our competency-based degree offerings from the credit hour by decoupling student learning from time. As many of you know, the credit hour is the current foundation of higher education. It measures degree progress and it is the basis for our financial aid system. Because the credit hour is time-based, it has enabled measurements such as “seat time” which measures the amount of time someone is to spend sitting in a classroom. Direct assessment measures student knowledge and learning, rather than seat time and grades. What matters is knowledge gained, not the amount of time it took to gain it. This decoupling is powerful but poses complicated problems for federal financial aid laws and regulations. H.R. 3136 creates a much needed demonstration project on competency-based education and direct assessment to address these legislative and regulatory barriers in a way that will strengthen these models and maintain safeguards for students.
Competency-based education broadly, and direct assessment programs specifically, hold enormous potential to dramatically increase flexibility for students; significantly reduce the cost of a degree; speed time to degree completion; and increase access for a wide variety of students that are not currently served by today’s higher educational model.
With the successful passage of H.R. 3136, there will be constructive opportunities for institutions to navigate and resolve the legislative and regulatory complexities around this new delivery model resulting in lower cost, shortened time to completion, a better understanding of how best to support the direct assessment student, how to successfully build a scalable model and how to continually improve learning outcomes.