Big week for CBE

July 24, 2014

Yesterday afternoon the House of Representatives took an important step forward in the advancement of competency-based education. They unanimously passed bipartisan legislation sponsored by Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) to create a demonstration program that would provide a safe place for institutions to work with the federal government on the creation of a regulatory framework that supports competency-based education programs like our FlexPath offering. Michael Stratford at Inside Higher Ed has a good write-up here.

Capella got a nice shout-out from Rep. George Miller (D-CA) during the debate, along with SNHU, the Lumina and New America Foundations, and the Cal State system. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) have a similar bill in the Senate, although it seems unlikely to move this year. Maybe unanimous support for the House bill will change the dynamics in the Senate? We’ll see. Regardless, coming on the heels of the experimental site announcement on Tuesday, yesterday’s action by the House is making for a big week in the world of CBE.

Post/View Comments (no responses) ››

Advancing CBE through C-BEN

July 23, 2014

As the momentum around competency-based education builds, it needs advocates and organization to serves as force multipliers to advance the cause. C-BEN, the Competency-Based Education Network, is just such a force multiplier. It’s a collection of institutions practicing CBE and outside organizations that see the potential for CBE to provide a more relevant, flexible and less expensive pathway to a degree. It is organized around trying to be a compelling voice for supportive, rational policy around CBE and the sharing of best/emerging practices.

I was privileged to join Dr. Deb Bushway, Vice President of Academic Innovation and Chief Academic Officer and Tracy Smith, Director of Information Delivery, in representing Capella at the meeting. Deb is one of the world’s best people to travel with and it was fun to get to know Tracy better (Tracy was recognized for the contributions she has already made to C-BEN with a little bottle of Grey Goose…so she’s kind of a big deal).

We kicked off yesterday with a conversation with Ted Mitchell, the under secretary of education. Paul Fain does a good job of recapping Mitchell’s announcement here, but the bottom line is that the Administration is taking a major step forward in the creation of an experimental site for competency-based education programs. They are creating a safe space for new models to test and learn what works and understand what it will take to create a common-sense regulatory structure to support these new models.

The rest of the day was spent sharing best practices and developing new lines of work for the next three months. Deb and I worked on the communications and storytelling track. The advancement and adoption of CBE programs will be directly tied to the ability of institutions and supporters to articulate its potential benefits in serious and credible ways.

Finally, a big shout out to Alison Kadlec, Amy Laitinen and Mike Offerman (who used to occupy his own Capella blog space) for their leadership on this issue. Excited for the work ahead. See everyone in October.

Post/View Comments (no responses) ››

The New ‘Hire’ Education

July 15, 2014

Michelle Rhee-Weise of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation wrote a great article on the future of higher education and how it needs to change to better serve today’s students.

“One of the core components of a disruptive innovation is something we call non-consumption. A disruptive innovation gains traction by initially offering simpler, more affordable and more convenient products and services to non-consumers, people for whom the alternative is nothing at all.” There is an expanding group of students that fit in this “non-consumer” group. These are students that are looking for lifelong learning mechanisms to help them complete school or skill-up for the workforce. These students are trying to transition, move up, are under or unemployed, need to pay off debt, and may not have the option of going to graduate school. These are students who need better and more direct connections to employment opportunities.

I think Michelle’s explanation of what today’s students are looking for in their education is a strong reminder for institutions of higher education. I encourage you to read the article and leave a comment below. Do you agree with Michelle’s analysis on the needs of today’s students?

Post/View Comments (no responses) ››

H.R. 3136 passed by the House Education & the Workforce Committee

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.

Post/View Comments (no responses) ››

NASFAA Conference Recap

July 7, 2014

Today’s guest post is from Capella’s Director of Public & Federal Aid Policy, Jillian Klein.

Last week I joined over 2,000 financial aid administrators in Nashville for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) conference. This annual conference is an opportunity for the financial aid community, NASFAA staff and the Department of Education to come together to share important updates, training and best practices in the industry. Justin Draeger, NASFAA’s president, opened the week by reminding attendees that the National Association of Financial Aid Administrators is “big enough for everyone, regardless of sector,” and the week of sessions and panels touched on emerging trends, opportunities and proposed changes that touch all areas of higher education.

The hottest topic of the week, of course, was the pending reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. The conference couldn’t have come at a better time, on the heels of several Higher Education Act bills that have been released over the past few weeks. In general, financial aid administrators are most concerned about a finalized reauthorization bill that includes a simplification of the federal financial aid application process (FAFSA), streamlined repayment options for student borrowers, stable and secure funding streams for the Title IV program, and the removal of administrative burdens that complicate financial aid processes.

More than ever before, financial aid administrators are also asking for a federal funding system that works for the contemporary student. The days of first-time, full-time students making up the majority are long gone, and federal financial aid funding needs to enable flexibility, support innovative models (like Capella’s FlexPath program), and ensure that funding is available for students who are on an accelerated path, as well as for those students attending college part-time while juggling family and career obligations.

Thrilled to meet Capella graduate Michelle Walker at NASFAA 2014!

Thrilled to meet Capella graduate Michelle Walker at NASFAA 2014!

It was wonderful to spend the week in Nashville with so many higher education professionals who are really devoted to making sure students succeed and that the federal financial aid program supports all students as they move through their programs. I’m already looking forward to next year’s NASFAA conference in New Orleans!

Post/View Comments (no responses) ››
← Older posts