Insights

Education News

CBE can be better than Traditional Programs

April 24, 2018
Sagence Opinion Corner

Breaking news! Forbes publishes op ed citing - “New Study: Less Expensive Competency-Based Education Programs Just As Good As Traditional Programs”. Hyperbole aside, this is worth exploring in depth.  Everyone has been part of the discussion about the increasing costs of higher education for most families. As this story reports -

“College students and their parents find it increasingly difficult to cope with tuition hyperinflation and historically high student-loan debt. Over the last 30 years, the average tuition for a U.S. bachelor’s degree at a traditional four-year college increased more than 15 times faster than the average household income in the United States.”

But there are educators, colleges, states, and policy makers who are seriously working to reimagine and address this issue. The article explains -

“In an effort to address this crisis, we at the Texas Public Policy Foundation commissioned Goldman Insights (Joseph Goldman, Phoebe Long, and Lillian Leone) to study of the possibilities of an alternative to traditional higher education—competency-based education (CBE).”

The author goes on to explain that in CBE students succeed by demonstrating mastery of the material required to earn a degree. It’s not about how much time you spent in a class, it’s about showing you are competent in your selected field of study beyond a specific standard.  Most importantly the author describes -

“Competency-based bachelor’s degree programs offer an alternative for nontraditional students who may not have the time or resources to complete a four-year program yet still desire a rigorous, meaningful education.”

This is a change from what most people understand is traditional higher education. How does a future employer know that a student is just as prepared, or better yet, more competent in their course work then a student in a traditional program?

“...we analyzed graduates of three different competency-based programs in teaching, nursing, and organizational leadership. What we found bodes well for students, especially those from lower-income backgrounds.”

Among the findings:

"…graduates scored significantly higher in all areas, including social intelligence, organizational acumen, work competence, personal management, grit, and work readiness overall."
"…graduates scored significantly higher on work readiness overall as well as grit, organizational acumen, and personal management."

The article also describes the financial implications, concluding that these programs open the door for more Americans to pursue jobs and careers they understand will help them reach personal and family goals.

”...more graduated debt-free..."
“...annual income ... is 21 percent higher..."
“...the majority of participants ...said they would not have received a recent promotion...”

We have a shortfall of qualified workers in key professions in healthcare, education, and technology. Current programs are not meeting this demand, they are not meeting the needs of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are looking for programs that meet their need for flexibility, their need for support, their need for job and career relevance. Many students are now seriously testing out new entries into the post secondary education market, programs like bootcamps and alternative certification programs.

Far more of our traditional colleges and universities must offer these

“...flexible, online learning opportunities that can help increase access for a growing segment of people looking for a career change. Enrollment in online, competency-based programs has grown rapidly in the last decade, producing a large increase in CBE graduates in the workforce."

There is huge demand for more of these programs. Any college or university that serves the non traditional student needs to seriously consider, 'why haven’t we designed and launched these kinds of programs.'  They can no longer object that these kinds of programs are not of high quality. The Texas Public Policy Foundation study found-

“Our survey-based, quantitative study of CBE graduates finds no evidence that CBE graduates in the programs studied had less favorable outcomes than the non-CBE graduates. In fact, incomes … were significantly higher than those of graduates of traditional programs.”
“Clearly, three programs cannot provide a fully representative sample of all CBE higher education, so additional research is necessary to confirm the outcomes of CBE program alumni in nursing, teaching, and other fields.”
“Nevertheless, we are confident that the claim that CBE program graduates are not prepared for the workforce or do not have at least comparable outcomes to traditional programs cannot be supported.”

Breaking news! Forbes publishes op ed citing - “New Study: Less Expensive Competency-Based Education Programs Just As Good As Traditional Programs”. Hyperbole aside, this is worth exploring in depth.  Everyone has been part of the discussion about the increasing costs of higher education for most families. As this story reports -

“College students and their parents find it increasingly difficult to cope with tuition hyperinflation and historically high student-loan debt. Over the last 30 years, the average tuition for a U.S. bachelor’s degree at a traditional four-year college increased more than 15 times faster than the average household income in the United States.”

But there are educators, colleges, states, and policy makers who are seriously working to reimagine and address this issue. The article explains -

“In an effort to address this crisis, we at the Texas Public Policy Foundation commissioned Goldman Insights (Joseph Goldman, Phoebe Long, and Lillian Leone) to study of the possibilities of an alternative to traditional higher education—competency-based education (CBE).”

The author goes on to explain that in CBE students succeed by demonstrating mastery of the material required to earn a degree. It’s not about how much time you spent in a class, it’s about showing you are competent in your selected field of study beyond a specific standard.  Most importantly the author describes -

“Competency-based bachelor’s degree programs offer an alternative for nontraditional students who may not have the time or resources to complete a four-year program yet still desire a rigorous, meaningful education.”

This is a change from what most people understand is traditional higher education. How does a future employer know that a student is just as prepared, or better yet, more competent in their course work then a student in a traditional program?

“...we analyzed graduates of three different competency-based programs in teaching, nursing, and organizational leadership. What we found bodes well for students, especially those from lower-income backgrounds.”

Among the findings:

"…graduates scored significantly higher in all areas, including social intelligence, organizational acumen, work competence, personal management, grit, and work readiness overall."
"…graduates scored significantly higher on work readiness overall as well as grit, organizational acumen, and personal management."

The article also describes the financial implications, concluding that these programs open the door for more Americans to pursue jobs and careers they understand will help them reach personal and family goals.

”...more graduated debt-free..."
“...annual income ... is 21 percent higher..."
“...the majority of participants ...said they would not have received a recent promotion...”

We have a shortfall of qualified workers in key professions in healthcare, education, and technology. Current programs are not meeting this demand, they are not meeting the needs of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are looking for programs that meet their need for flexibility, their need for support, their need for job and career relevance. Many students are now seriously testing out new entries into the post secondary education market, programs like bootcamps and alternative certification programs.

Far more of our traditional colleges and universities must offer these

“...flexible, online learning opportunities that can help increase access for a growing segment of people looking for a career change. Enrollment in online, competency-based programs has grown rapidly in the last decade, producing a large increase in CBE graduates in the workforce."

There is huge demand for more of these programs. Any college or university that serves the non traditional student needs to seriously consider, 'why haven’t we designed and launched these kinds of programs.'  They can no longer object that these kinds of programs are not of high quality. The Texas Public Policy Foundation study found-

“Our survey-based, quantitative study of CBE graduates finds no evidence that CBE graduates in the programs studied had less favorable outcomes than the non-CBE graduates. In fact, incomes … were significantly higher than those of graduates of traditional programs.”
“Clearly, three programs cannot provide a fully representative sample of all CBE higher education, so additional research is necessary to confirm the outcomes of CBE program alumni in nursing, teaching, and other fields.”
“Nevertheless, we are confident that the claim that CBE program graduates are not prepared for the workforce or do not have at least comparable outcomes to traditional programs cannot be supported.”

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Resources

CBE Network.org

A National Consortium for Designing, Developing and Scaling New Models for Student Learning

CBE Info.org

Discover the impact of Competency-Based Education on higher learning and how to implement CBE programs at your institution

HLC Commission.org

Common Framework for Defining and Approving Competency-Based Education Programs

US Dept of Education.gov

Competency Based Learning or Personalized Learning; Transitioning away from seat time.

Case Study

Evaluating Empire's First Competency-Based Learning Pilot

SUNY Empire State College piloted their first CBL courses. These findings and recommendations are based on the experiences of Empire State’s coach, faculty, technical staff, and student participants.

Read more

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