NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Could Competency-Based Education Deliver More Efficient Education?

May 19, 2015

In recent years, competency-based education (CBE) has made considerable inroads in higher education. Various institutions have developed or begun developing a range of programs modeled on competency-based principles. CBE is viewed by many, and with good reason, as a potential means to deliver a more effective educational experience at a lower cost.

Yet despite increased interest from postsecondary institutions and strong support from policymakers, examples abound of regulatory barriers that not only fail to encourage competency-based learning but in fact impede its progress. The question thus arises as to whether the postsecondary regulatory community can develop an efficient process for approving and overseeing competency-based models, even within a favorable political environment.

Consider these recommendations:

  • Where state authorization frameworks make specific reference to credit hour thresholds, regulators should consider whether such thresholds are indeed necessary and, if so, whether they might be defined in an alternative manner that could accommodate those forms of CBE that operate independently of the credit hour (in other words, direct assessment programming).
  • An independent advisory body that would serve all institutional accreditors, regional and national alike should be formed. Armed with expertise relating to competency-based programming, this advisory body would bring experience, consistency and efficiency to the review of such programming across the country.
  • The U.S. Department of Education should develop a distinct regulatory framework for approving and managing aid for direct assessment programs without reference to credit hour or instructional time concepts.

Source: Aaron Lacey and Christopher Murray, "Rethinking the Regulatory Environment of Competency-Based Education," American Enterprise Institute, May 2015. 


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