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Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Competency-Based Education: Saving Students Time and Money | EDUCAUSE Review

Key Takeaways

  • Competency-based education offers the opportunity to accelerate learning and thus time-to-credential; alternative pricing structures such as all-you-can-take subscription models; and credit for prior learning. 
  • The Texas Affordable Baccalaureate Program, a competency-based BAAS in Organizational Leadership at Texas A&M University–Commerce, illustrates how these time and cost savings can benefit students.  
  • The TAMU-C Institute for Competency-Based Education will assist additional higher education institutions across Texas in developing their own TAB programs.

Photo: Judith A Sebesta
Photo: Carlos Rivers
"Competency-based education offers the opportunity to accelerate learning and thus time-to-credential; alternative pricing structures such as all-you-can-take subscription models; and credit for prior learning. Together, these can support cost savings for students. The Texas Affordable Baccalaureate Program illustrates how this might work." according to Carlos Rivers, MBA, operations research analyst in the Institute for Competency-Based Education, Texas A&M University–Commerce and Judith Sebesta, PhD, executive director of the Institute for Competency-Based Education, Texas A&M University–Commerce. 
Affordability is one of many potential advantages for students engaging in competency-based education (CBE). The opportunity to accelerate learning and thus time-to-credential; alternative pricing structures such as all-you-can-take subscription models; and credit for prior learning may all afford cost savings for students. However, we still see a relative dearth of hard evidence to substantiate CBE's potential. In his 2015 report "The Landscape of Competency-Based Education: Enrollment, Demographics, and Affordability", Robert Kelchen pointed out:
Although the list prices of competency-based models appear very cost effective in relation to traditional higher education models, no one has comprehensively examined the true affordability of CBE programs and whether they actually deliver credentials to their students at a lower price.1
Preliminary research on the Texas Affordable Baccalaureate (TAB) Program, a competency-based BAAS in Organizational Leadership at Texas A&M University-Commerce (TAMU-C), suggests significant cost savings for students. Tuition and fees have remained fixed at $750 for Texas residents and $2,500 for non-residents for each seven-week term since January 2014, when the first class of students was admitted. This pricing model allows students to accelerate and complete as many courses as they can manage for no additional cost during each term of enrollment, an all-you-can-take buffet of courses for the same flat rate. In addition, since many students come to the program with an associate's degree or prior learning from the workplace or military, they also have options to satisfy some degree requirements through transfer credit or prior learning assessment (PLA), which can propel them to finish their degree even faster.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) and TAB Program staff members have built estimated cost scenarios for students in the program. A TAB student is not the typical "traditional" college student most people imagine. Of the current 305 students enrolled in the TAB Program, 88 percent are ages 25 and up, and 53 percent of all enrolled students receive some type of financial assistance, including but not limited to outside scholarships and employer reimbursements.2   

Since its inception, the TAB Program at TAMU-C has yielded crucial data to track its programmatic and student performance, providing a model for other Texas public institutions of higher education to follow. Currently, the Institute for Competency-Based Education , also based at TAMU-C, is charged with developing appropriate, targeted metrics with which to track outcomes and to continuously collect data on the program and its students. Here we focus on student efficiency/affordability scenarios based on the 122 students who have graduated from the TAB Program. We hope these cost scenarios — which mirror a national trend toward using CBE to support affordability — help clarify how students can save both time and money through CBE models.
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Source: EDUCAUSE Review


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