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Competency-based learning.

Last week, the Department issued guidance for postsecondary institutions that offer competency-based programs in which students learn at their own pace--but that currently do not offer federal student aid. The agency is reminding schools that they may be eligible to offer Title IV funds under the direct assessment provision of the Higher Education Act, and it has supplied step-by-step instructions on how to apply. Moreover, for the many institutions that have expressed interest, the guidance addresses developing competency-based programs that are likely to be Title IV eligible.

In recent years, some institutions have recognized the potential of innovative learning models and developed creative programs that allow students the flexibility to learn at the pace that makes sense for them, both in career-technical and degree programs. Students progress in these programs by demonstrating their achievement of specific skills or knowledge. Most competency-based programs fit into traditional learning models that measure progress in credit or clock hours, but an increasing number do not. Some of these programs would like to offer their students Title IV aid--including Pell Grants and student loans--but have been unable to so.

The guidance also notes the potential of competency-based approaches to shorten time to degree completion and reduce costs, while providing an opportunity for students to develop the skills and knowledge they need to compete for good jobs or advance in the workplace. Going forward, the Department plans to collaborate with accrediting agencies and the broader community to encourage innovative approaches, identify promising practices, and gather feedback to inform future policies.
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Publication:ED Review
Date:Mar 29, 2013
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