"As a Marine, Jasmine Quiroz-Pele went from Japan to Afghanistan and
back again, getting a thorough training in supply chain logistics." notes Katrina Dix | The Free Lance–Star.
But once out of the service, as a civilian in her mid-20s and a single mom who relocated to Fredericksburg after retiring from active duty, she was just another college student, with a long list of prerequisites and general studies requirements between her and a degree.
“I think for me, because I’m in what is considered the professional environment for my industry, a lot of that stuff I was already aware of,” said Quiroz-Pele, who is working full time as a federal employee for the Department of Defense. “A lot of the concepts and procedures were already built into my experiences.”
Proving her proficiency, however, was another story.
That’s because it’s difficult for colleges such as Germanna Community College, where Quiroz-Pele finished an associate’s degree in December, or the University of Mary Washington, where she transferred credits and started classes this month, to measure knowledge and skills acquired outside the classroom.
The attempt to award credit for material learned non-traditionally is often referred to as competency-based education, a phrase whose definition has changed over decades as its popularity has waxed and waned.
Lately, programs that describe themselves as competency-based are likely to offer courses students can complete at their own pace. Some institutions charge by the year or semester rather than the credit, making them a cheaper option for students who can sprint through the courses.
But with the cost of post-secondary education snowballing and the number of students over 25 rising — reaching almost 41 percent of college students in the 2014-15 school year, according to information from the National Center for Education Statistics — schools are more interested than ever in some version of competency-based education, or CBE.
In a 2016 study including a survey of 251 higher education institutions, 37 percent of respondents reported some use of CBE, but about two-thirds hadn’t yet introduced any related programs or were still in the planning stage.
The study, which was conducted by the American Council on Education and partner companies, found that despite high interest, institutions struggled with “competing definitions, confused terminology, and narrow perceptions of what CBE really is.”
“I think it’s just good use of people’s time and people’s money,” said Sarah Somerville, the dean of student development at Germanna.