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CBE can be better than Traditional Programs

Forbes column details results of efforts by the Texas Public Policy Foundation to study the possibilities of an alternative to traditional higher education.

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. 
, 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

“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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