Scott Kinney to publish articles on LinkedIn

April 24, 2014

I am excited to announce that Scott Kinney, president of Capella University, is now writing full-length articles on innovation in higher education for LinkedIn. His first article was published last week and is focused on the relationship between competency-based education and the federal student financial aid system, what it needs to work, and why you should care.

In the article, Scott highlights a recent hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce titled “Keeping College Within Reach: Meeting the Needs of Contemporary Students.” Kevin Gilligan, CEO of Capella Education Company, was invited to testify on the behalf of Capella at the hearing. Capella did a great job at advocating for the need to support innovation through a restricting of our federal financial aid rules in order for competency-based learning to benefit students who depend on federal financial aid.

Here is a link to the article. I encourage you to follow Scott on LinkedIn, as Scott will have compelling input on meaningful areas of higher education.

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Meeting the explosive demand for skills that public institutions cannot always meet

March 18, 2014

Nexus recently released a study that focuses on the high costs that state taxpayers would incur if undergraduate students served by proprietary institutions instead enrolled in two- and four-year public institutions. The study calculated the financial implications in California, New York, Ohio and Texas from academic years 2007 – 2008 to 2011 – 2012.

Nexus’ study shows that there would be hefty fiscal costs if the propriety sector closed and thousands of students that are currently learning at these institutions then sought access to public colleges and universities. The study estimated that “across these four states, $6.4 billion in state appropriations would have been needed to support the education of these bachelor’s graduates and $4.6 billion to support the associate’s graduates.”

Below is the link to the report, and recent media coverage on the study.

Nexus: Do proprietary institutions of higher education generate savings for states?

The Chronicle of Higher Education: Shut down for-profit colleges? Not so fast, a study suggests

Inside Higher Ed: If for-profits vanished

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SXSWedu recap

March 10, 2014

I had a great time at SXSWedu this week. For those of you who aren’t familiar, SXSWedu is a conference focusing on innovation in learning. It is part of SXSW, which is an annual music, film and interactive conference held in Austin.

I was able to see Scott Kinney, Capella University President , and Deborah Bushway, Capella VP of Academic Innovation and Chief Academic Officer, speak at SXSWedu.

Scott participated in a panel called “Can the Liberal Arts Survive in an Age of Innovation?” The panel discussed the traditional four-year liberal arts experience and the changes facing it as innovation expands and the cost of higher education rises. Michelle Weise of the Clayton Christenson Institute, President David Maxwell of Drake University, and Liz Willen, editor of the Hechinger Report were also on the panel. It was lively discussion and kept coming back to competency-based models like Capella’s. Audience members raised thoughtful questions about the goal of higher education – was it to make a person happy, or focus on jobs and productivity? Liz Willen used a piece Scott wrote in the Hechinger Report a few months ago to frame the conversation.

Deb led a panel discussion hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation titled, “Online Instruction at Scale: Emerging Trends.”  They had a thoughtful discussion of how colleges and universities were handling innovation and the complex issues and decisions that followed it. Faculty from the University of Toronto and University of Texas at Austin discussed their approaches for producing a quality online course and Maria Andersen of Area9, a leader in online adaptive learning, discussed the evolution of MOOCS and the role of faculty in online teaching.

I was also had the privilege of attending a panel with one of America’s greatest living non-fiction writers, Robert Caro. He joined College Board President David Coleman, and Peg Tyre, a nationally renowned education writer, to discuss the power of analytical writing. If anyone is going to talk about the power of analytical writing, it should be Robert Caro and he didn’t disappoint. For anyone who is interested, his series of biographies on Lyndon Johnson is some of the best storytelling in modern literature. I know this praise probably sounds a little over-the-top, but at the panel discussion, David Coleman compared Caro’s introduction to Master of the Senate to Plato’s Republic, so I feel like I have some flexibility here. Lastly, my longtime friend Steve Clemons (no slouch as a writer in his own right) was there in his capacity as Executive Editor of the Atlantic to announce a forthcoming partnership between the Atlantic and the College Board. I’m always excited to see the results of any project of Steve’s.

It was a great conference and I’m already excited for next year. It’s an interesting combination of traditional academic conversations and ed tech entrepreneurialism. I left struck by the note of optimism Scott struck in his panel. We have huge challenges in higher education, but Scott rightly pointed to all the opportunity and innovation surrounding us each day. Did you attend SXSWedu? What was your favorite panel?

Looking forward to Capella’s commencement in Nashville this weekend.

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ISAs – investing in value, sharing risk

March 4, 2014

Last week, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) published an informative article and report on Income Share Agreements (ISAs) and their strong potential future within the student loan landscape.

With an ISA, an investor or other organization provides a student with financing for higher education in exchange for a percentage of the student’s future income for a defined period of time after the student finishes school. Unlike a loan, there is no principal balance to repay with an ISA. Depending on the level of the student’s success after school, the student may ultimately pay more or less than the amount financed. This instrument for the private financing of higher education is not currently a full substitute for federal student aid programs, but it can help correct some of the existing system’s shortcomings and improve student outcomes.

Authors Miguel Palacios, Andrew Kelly and Tonio De Sorrento of AEI clearly outline why they believe ISAs are better suited for student financing than traditional student loans in their article, and what steps policymakers should take to facilitate the growth of ISAs. Please read and let me know what you think about ISAs’ potential in the comment section below.

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The future of direct assessment

February 26, 2014

Today’s guest post is from Capella’s Director of Public & Federal Aid Policy, Jillian Klein. I would like to welcome Jillian back from maternity leave!


Jillian Klein, Director of Public & Federal Aid Policy

An article in last week’s Inside Higher Ed called “Taking the Direct Path” talks all about the recent history of direct assessment programs in higher education, including the opportunities and the challenges in moving this innovative style of learning forward. Capella University has been on the forefront of this change, with the development of the FlexPath program in 2013, which allows learners the flexibility to move through their program at their own pace, spending more time on the areas that are new to them and moving more quickly through those with which they are familiar. This decoupling of learning from credit hours and seat time just makes sense, but the road to move education in that direction continues to be a bumpy one.

The current federal financial aid rules require that direct assessment correlates back to the credit hour, but the extent to which this needs to happen is unclear. And even when schools can pass that hurdle, the reality is that the federal financial aid system is built around the concept of the credit hour and seat time, making it difficult to completely innovate in this area. This winter, the Department of Education requested that the higher education community submit proposals for experimental site initiatives geared at providing schools with the authority to experiment with options of how to administer financial aid in a true direct assessment model. This sort of safe place for innovation is exactly what is needed in order to build the basis for regulatory and policy changes that will fully allow direct assessment programs to operate separate from the credit hour model.

While the Department of Education is moving the ball forward on direct assessment, however, there are restrictions to those issues which the Secretary can focus on, such as modifications to Title IV awarding rules. Understanding this, a bipartisan group in Congress introduced HR 3136, the Advancing Competency-Based Education Act. This bill would create a demonstration program, which facilitates the same type of safe space as the Department’s experimental sites initiative, but is more comprehensive and factors in the necessary authority to make crucial Title IV modifications.

Through the development of the FlexPath program, Capella discovered first-hand the federal financial aid rules that inhibit true innovation in the direct assessment model, and the credit hour is just a piece of the puzzle. For example, in a more flexible model, where learners are able to move at their own pace, rules around what happens to a student’s financial aid eligibility when they drop courses need to be revisited. Currently the percentage of aid a student retains is based on a time component, but what happens when that disappears? The same question exists for a concept like satisfactory academic progress. Likewise, how can we rethink concepts like limits to annual aid eligibility in light of a model that is geared towards decreasing the amount of time it takes a learner to complete their degree? There are other challenges in the current system, too, like reconciling aid-eligible direct assessment programs with the current prohibition on granting federal financial aid for prior learning.

These issues provide a clear indication that there is a real need for the development of federal financial aid rules that make sense with the move towards direct assessment, and Capella is excited to be part of that conversation. Through the FlexPath program we are learning more about the opportunities that exist for learners in this new method of educational delivery, and we look forward to continued dialog around the topic.

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