Fighting the affordability crisis

January 8, 2014


Capella’s President Scott Kinney wrote a powerful article in the Hechinger Report today on how innovation in higher education can help make college more affordable.

To address this national crisis, we must support innovation in higher ed. By re-thinking how we deliver high-quality education through models like direct assessment, we can reduce the cost of the degree and still maintain academic rigor and quality.

Scott makes an important point about the urgency needed when trying to fix this problem in our country. He states that a robust, highly-educated workforce that has the mastery of the skills needed in tomorrow’s labor market is essential for the U.S. to remain competitive in the global economy. Unless we encourage innovation and rethink fundamentals soon, the percentage of Americans with college degrees could actually decline due to the crippling amount that a college degree costs.

Here is a link to Scott’s article, “Fighting the affordability crisis by linking new learning models to outcomes.”

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2013 – Year in Review

December 30, 2013

2013 was an important year for Capella and competency-based education.

In March, the U.S. Department of Education invited higher education institutions to submit programs for consideration under Title IV federal financial aid that did not rely on seat time. The concept of “competency-based education” that uses direct assessment is not a brand-new idea, but it has always been constrained from full implementation by multiple federal rules. One of the most notable rules was the fact that in order to qualify for federal financial aid, online courses had to last for a full term and follow a set curriculum.

In August, this all changed. The Department of Education approved Capella’s FlexPath direct-assessment program and waived these rules. Capella is one of the first universities to get this approval and launch a competency-based program that utilizes direct assessment. In October, Capella officially rolled out our FlexPath program for our bachelor’s degree in business and MBA programs. With FlexPath, students work at their own pace to complete a series of assessments in each course. A key advantage of this approach is that it allows the student to move quickly through subjects in which they are already proficient.

Here are a couple examples of coverage on FlexPath and competency based education.


2013 was also an exciting year for Capella’s social media presence. Our Facebook page reached 50,000 likes this month.  Capella is grateful for the opportunity to build and connect with our adult learners and those exploring the possibility of continuing their education.


I hope you have a great start to your new year, and I look forward to connecting with you in 2014.

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Capella Named Winner of College Scorecard Design Challenge

December 23, 2013

Earlier this year, the Lumina Foundation announced a “College Scorecard Challenge” built around suggestions for strengthening the College Scorecard the White House released last February. Jillian Klein, Capella’s director of Public and Financial Aid Policy, worked with a cross-functional team to put forward a submission from Capella. The submission was built around our ideas for making a college scorecard that could better inform learner choices and serve as a basis for thoughtful data-based policy solutions. Last week, Lumina announced that out of 390 submissions received, Capella’s submission was the winner!

College Scorecard

Capella’s design “offered many layers of institutional comparisons including popular majors, career upon graduation and forecasted ‘break even’ dates. It also illustrated measures that would make a college comparison tool more student-centric such as creating individual student profiles and including college iconography throughout the platform.”

A huge thank you to the Capella team that made this a huge success.

Here is a link to the press release Lumina sent out.

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The Capella learning community [INFOGRAPHIC]

December 4, 2013

Our current infographic showcases the unique learning community at Capella University. Our professionally minded students span all 50 states and 61 countries. What makes our learning community unique is that 95% of our students attend part-time and have an average age of 40. This snapshot reflects the changing face of higher education – it is time to focus higher ed policy on this emerging reality.

By measuring learning on a direct assessment model over the measurement of time, we will have the potential to allow students, especially working adults, to complete their degrees faster and pay less. Capella’s FlexPath model aligns specific competencies with the needs of employers as well as critical societal needs, and provides busy working adults the flexibility they need to complete their program.


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Competency-based education and the real world

December 3, 2013

Carol Geary Schneider, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, recently published an article that dives deeper into what competency-based education should encompass and what the student’s role in becoming “competent” should be.

“If Competency Is the Goal, Then Students’ Own Work Is the Key to Reaching It” makes a point about competency-based education that Capella works to embed in our curricula and institution. Competencies must reflect broader intellectual and civic outcomes, as well as professionally-aligned outcomes. Demonstrating competency in both these areas is crucial for students to earn the kind of education and degree that opens up more opportunities and lays the foundation for a lifetime of learning. Schneider states it well; what competency-based education efforts should really emphasize is “students’ demonstrated ability to connect their learning with real-world challenges, in their jobs, their communities and their own lives.”

This is exactly what Capella’s system of authentic, fully embedded assessments allows us to measure from within our competency framework.  Learners must demonstrate the ability to apply theory (learning) with a real world situation through the creation of a work product that approximates the type of work that would be expected when faced with “real world challenges”.

Schneider emphasizes the importance of the student’s role in their own learning, “The fact is that students learn what they practice. If competency is the goal, then students’ own effortful work on projects, papers, research, creative task, and field-based assignments is the key to reaching it.” It is important that competency-based education programs stay dedicated to what “true” competency means, and model their curriculum after this concept.  That will help ensure their students are given the full set of tools to succeed, and the work they do in the course reflects a person who is competent both professionally and societally.

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