Competency Based College Credit Takes Off But Questions Remain

The landscape of competency-based education: Enrollments, demographics, and affordability

January 2015

Robert Kelche

Key points

  • Competency-based education (CBE), in which credit is provided on the basis of student learning rather than credit or clock hours, is starting to gain traction with educators and policymakers.
  • CBE programs are often touted as a far more affordable route to college credit and a degree, but these claims often fail to account for assessment fees, differences in financial aid eligibility, and opportunity costs of time.
  • Many questions about CBE remain to be answered before its wide adoption, including which students and degree programs are best suited for CBE, overall cost of CBE compared to more traditional programs, and how to lower out-of-pocket costs for students.

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