“Shaking up” how we offer higher education

July 25, 2013

Few would argue that our higher education system needs to evolve to become more affordable for students. But the question is:  how do we do that without sacrificing educational quality? In a speech yesterday, President Obama stressed the need to “shake up” how higher education is offered to make it more affordable and improve the ROI of an education for American families. (http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/07/25/obama-vows-shake-higher-education-and-find-new-ways-limit-costs)

Obama had this to say: “Now, some colleges are testing new approaches to shorten the path to a degree, or blending teaching with online learning to help students master material and earn credits in less time … in the coming months, I will lay out an aggressive strategy to shake up the system, tackle rising costs, and improve value for middle-class students and their families.  It is critical that we make sure that college is affordable for every single American who’s willing to work for it.”

Capella is a firm believer in the promise of direct assessment and competency-based learning as one solution to the higher education affordability crisis. Our innovative FlexPath programs offer the potential to significantly reduce the cost of a degree, accelerate the time required for degree completion, and better align learning to the needs of employers and society. Traditionally, degree programs have been constructed around credit hours that measure the time required to complete specific courses. Under the FlexPath model, degree programs are constructed around the direct assessment of demonstrated competencies and the application of learning. As a sign of growing acceptance of this approach, Capella’s FlexPath programs have received approval by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), which accredits degree-granting institutions in the north-central region of the United States.

Capella University’s President Scott Kinney has said the following about Capella’s exploration of direct assessment: “Programs like FlexPath, that measure learning instead of time, represent an enormous opportunity for higher education. Students will be able to move through a degree program at a pace determined by their ability to learn and to demonstrate competencies in real-world applications, rather than a predetermined and uniform time designation. This has the potential to significantly reduce the cost of a college degree.”

Please share your thoughts about what you think can and should be done to make higher education more affordable while maintaining educational quality and relevance.

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