NASFAA’s Innovative Learning Models Task Force

August 14, 2015

Today’s guest post is from Jillian Klein, Capella’s director of public and federal aid policy.

In November 2014, I was invited to participate in the National Association of Students Financial Aid Administrator’s (NASFAA) “Innovative Learning Model’s Task Force,” tasked with formulating recommendations to be shared broadly of how federal financial aid regulations and guidance might be changed in order to better support innovation in higher education. The work of our task force focused on innovative learning models as a broad concept, trying to allow for new models in higher education that may not even exist today, but also to include formats like competency-based direct assessment programs, like FlexPath.

Ultimately, our recommendations were segmented into five different themes: flexibility, accountability, cost, complexity and barriers. These five themes all highlight that the existing federal financial aid framework, built in large part to support traditional, brick and mortar institutions, doesn’t necessarily translate well to support today’s more innovative higher education offerings. Many of the recommendations included in the final task force report include ideas we have talked about on the Education Matters blog before: reintroducing year-round Pell to ensure students aren’t financially penalized for accelerating through their program, separating the federal financial aid system from a time-based measure, allowing schools the authority to limit borrowing, and a handful of ideas that are currently being tested through the existing Experimental Site Initiatives (in which Capella is participating.)

The upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act is a great time to tackle many of the recommendations in this paper in order to ensure both innovation and accountability are maintained as new models of education are developed. The emergence of, and interest in, concepts like competency-based education make it clear that higher education is changing rapidly, and we need to make sure we have a funding system in place that supports today’s contemporary student. If you’re interested in reading the full report, you can find it here.

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Celebrating the Journey of Our Capella Graduates

August 13, 2015

This weekend, I’ll celebrate my five-year Capella birthday. I began at Capella five-years ago in July, but, really, I feel like my time at Capella started when I attended my first commencement in August, 2010. As an online institution, we don’t see our learners walking across campus, at football games, or at the student union. They are a constant presence every day in what we do; but we don’t get to see them. Such is the way of a modern, innovative university in the 21st century.

It’s this dynamic that makes it all the more exciting when the Capella family comes together for a commencement. Our CEO Kevin Gilligan describes it well when he says that people who are truly happy smile with their eyes, and that’s never more true than at a Capella University commencement. So many people are smiling with their eyes.

Capella grad

Nearly a thousand Capella graduates and their families will come to Minneapolis this weekend to walk across the stage at commencement and celebrate overcoming the many challenges inherent in that journey. Capella is fortunate to have a diverse group of learners participating this year. Attendees are from every state in the U.S., D.C., Guam, and Puerto Rico and internationally from Canada, Egypt, Ghana, Nepal and Nigeria. Commencement provides a unique opportunity for all of the graduates to come together in one place as they begin the next leg of their journey as the graduating class of 2015.

Capella grad



If you follow this blog, you know that Capella learners are primarily working adults with families and other outside responsibilities. Earning a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree is not an endeavor that most learners do without help. Certainly, there are a host of supporters at Capella such as advisors, coaches, teachers and mentors. However, there are often family members and friends who support and make sacrifices, just as learners do, to help a loved one earn their degree. Whether this is a spouse who makes dinner so their partner can study, a friend with a cup of coffee, or a parent who watches the kids during colloquium weekend; their support and encouragement is invaluable. It is a privilege to see all of those people who contributed toward the common goal of an education come together and celebrate.

Capella couple

Commencement family

Five years ago, I didn’t really understand the power of what we do until I attended my first commencement. That’s when I really joined the Capella “team.” I was all-in from that moment forward and I know I’m not alone in having commencement be a transformative moment for me.

Congratulations to all of the Capella grads this weekend whether they are here in person or graduating in absentia. Degrees of all levels take hard work, perseverance and support to complete; we are proud of you, #CapellaGrad!


You can watch the live ceremony here:

Join the celebration online using #CapellaGrad

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(PODCAST) Faculty member, Dr. John Sullivan Discusses His Career and Passion for Distance Education

August 7, 2015

Capella is offering a new Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice degree program, and I was fortunate to sit down with Capella faculty, Dr. John Sullivan to discuss how this program can benefit professionals in the field. John not only has an impressive career in law enforcement; he also was a member of Capella University’s second graduating class, where he earned his PhD in Organization and Management.

Dr. John Sullivan

Dr. John Sullivan

In the podcast, we discuss John’s career path and his reflections about his time in law enforcement. He started out as a staff sergeant with the U.S. air force before becoming a police office in Kansas and shortly afterwards, a federal agent. John discusses earning his bachelors, masters and ultimately his PhD as a working adult. He talks about his passion for distance education as a scholar-practitioner and he shares his advice for working adults who are going back to school. He has a really interesting story and I hope you enjoy our conversation.


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Capella partners with SAS to deliver MS in Analytics program

August 3, 2015

Sue Talley, Capella’s dean of technology, was recently quoted in an article by the Center for Digital Education on our new MS in Analytics program, which was launched last Thursday.

Sue Talley

The U.S. is facing a critical skills gap in data and analytics, and our nation needs more graduate-level degree programs to meet this demand. Since Capella is 100% online, it is not limited by classroom size and can accommodate more students. Capella’s program is a great fit for adult students, as Sue explains in the article, “We tried to build this for working adults, people who have an interest in analytics but probably would not be able to get into the other analytics programs because of those residency requirements or because of the requirement that they’d have to go to school full time.”

SAS’ CEO, Dr. Jim Goodnight, shared the organization’s dedication to closing the analytics skills gap with the partnership with Capella on his Facebook page here.

Please see the full Center for Digital Education article here, and additional coverage on the program in eCampus News here.

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Capella Alumna Breaks Down Barriers in the NFL

July 31, 2015

Capella PhD in Psychology and MS in Sports Psychology grad, Dr. Jen Welter, just became the first female coach of any kind in the NFL! Jen is one of seven interns hired by the Arizona Cardinals and will be an inside linebackers coach during training camp and the preseason.

Coach Jen Welter, Ph.D.

Coach Jen Welter, Ph.D.

Dr. Welter has had a long career in sports; she played rugby in college and was a linebacker in the Women’s Football Alliance for 14 years, where she helped the Dallas Diamonds win four championships. She played running back and special teams for the Indoor Football League’s Texas Revolution and she became the first woman to coach in a men’s professional football league last year as an assistant coach for the Revolution.

While in her PhD program at Capella, she tailored her studies to focus on sports. “I took everything I learned in psychology and looked for an application to sports and to athletes in general. And I think the biggest thing that most people don’t realize is that athletes are humans too. We see them as players, but we tend to be very bad at looking past the helmet and seeing the people.”

Read the full article in Time. There is also a great article on NBC News.

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