Admission News

Earn Competencies, not Credits, at College?

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Traditionally, students go to college to earn credits toward their degrees. Some feel this is equivalent to seat-time learning. These people want college education reforms. They want to see college learning assessment based on quality of leaning, not on time. They also want to see the overall cost of college education reduced. In competency-based college programs a degree or certificate may be earned in less time.

One of the many hold backs to such reform has been the worry of some colleges that their students will not be eligible for federal financial aid. In March, 2013, however, the US Education Department signaled students enrolled in competency-based college programs may now apply for financial aid, and the Department has developed a new process for these students to do so. In fact, since 2005 federal law has allowed students to apply for financial aid under the “direct assessment” provision of the Higher Education Act, but colleges are just now beginning to understand the implications of this provision for reform and to develop competency-based learning curricula. One leader in this area has been Southern New Hampshire University.

Another reason for hesitating to change the traditional path to a college degree is the fear employers will not understand the qualifications of recent graduates in such programs. One answer has been that college creditors are demanding all competencies are clearly linked to credit hours to make translate better. Another plus for employers hiring these graduates is students in competency-based programs can earn and demonstrate stackable credentials. They can develop learning projects that cross many disciplines and teach many skills. They are not bound to one or two majors where they concentrate their credit hour time. Such graduates will have more marketable skills for the real world of work.