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Competency-Based Higher Ed

Competency-based higher education offers a debt-free pathway to graduation.

Photo of Hudson Baird
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Online higher education has a bad reputation. That's understandable. Historically, graduation rates were low, learning was hard to verify, and credits were over-priced. But that's no longer the case.

Competency-based education (CBE), a small and growing niche of post-secondary education, offers demonstrable and work-force aligned learning. These programs, like College for America, are non-profit, regionally-accredited, and workforce-aligned. Most importantly, they're affordable.

Average in-state university tuition is $9,139. College for America is $2,500. This affordability is because competency-based universities are not encumbered with the secondary costs of brick-and-mortar universities.

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Learning is improved through a project-based curriculum that ensures they master the material. This provides artifacts that students can show employers to demonstrate learning. Here's what it looks like for a student:

When paired with employer-funded tuition reimbursement (as seen at Starbucks) it's possible to imagine a world where working students can go to college for free.



What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

The American college model was built over 100 years ago for students under age 24, who lived on campus and attended full-time. No longer is that the norm. If we could imagine models of education so that students would learn the needed skills (in addition to credentials) for 21st century employment - what would it look like? Competency-based higher education is close to the answer.


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Photo of Gavin Cosgrave

Great share! I thought both videos did a great job explaining two unique programs to make college more available and accessible for working professionals, and more in line with 21st century needs.
Check out this post by Curtis about community college:
and this post by Carolina about who should pay for education:

Photo of Hudson Baird

Thanks for those links Gavin, they're both hitting the same point. I hadn't seen the chart mentioned in the community college article, and it's an important point that funding will change. For community colleges in particular, that are funded in-part by property tax, it seems like a revenue stream that can't grow at the same rate as expenses.

Looks like you're on the edge of post-secondary education, what does the college landscape look like from where you're sitting?

Photo of Gavin Cosgrave

Right now, I'm in the application process, so mostly essay writing. In the spring, I'll do the fafsa and apply for some private scholarships, then hope for the best in May when I find out where I get in. Cost will definitely factor into my decision, but I'm not limiting any of my searching based on price, since I feel like some of the most expensive schools give the best aid.

Photo of Hudson Baird

For sure man, apply everywhere you have an interest, and see what the aid packages look like where you get accepted. Once you get in, consider a gap year and traveling to work or learn overseas. These two universities are also solid and tuition-free.

Best of luck!