American Colleges Face a New Shake-Up: Competency-Based System

19 April, 2013

The President’s State of the Union address on Feb.12, 2013 made a strong call for workforce tailored higher education reform in the areas of cost and access.

This reform would imply extensive changes to the criteria accreditors use to evaluate colleges: Congress was asked to either require accreditors to take college prices and educational value into account OR to create an alternative system based on “seat time”  “performance and results”, rather than seat time.

As a response, the first of these national low-cost, competency-based programs is now in pilot in several workplaces across the country. It aims at diminishing the major barriers to a college-level education – rising tuition costs, geography, intensely competitive learning environments and impracticality – for working adults.

Developed by Southern New Hampshire University’s (SNHU) Innovation Lab, College for America is a competency-based, online program that offers an Associate of Arts degree based on definable skills and measureable results. Students will work through self-paced material and tested on their mastery of 120 competencies, where they complete specific tasks, which are scored by trained reviewers using analytic rubrics. The cost of the program is low – $2,500 a year, all-inclusive.

The model aims to ensure that students have acquired the most relevant, necessary and measureable workforce skills – communication, critical and creative thinking, quantitative literacy and collaboration.

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