Why Competency Based Education?


Competency Based Education Financial Aid



Lesley Phelps, Vice President, Regent Education

Bob Collins, Vice President, WGU

April 14, 2014

What is Competency Based Education?

• The decoupling of seat time from academic progress

• Progress is evaluated on mastery of content/skills rather than seat time

• Student paced vs. defined semesters, quarters, etc.

Why Competency Based Education?

• More accurately measure student learning

• Reduce time to graduation

• Reduce costs

• Student loan debt 2 nd only to mortgage loans in total household debt

• Positioning for potential funding model and institutional ranking changes

• Enrollment considerations

Why Competency Based Education?

The Changing Needs of Learners

• Flexibility

• Changes in consumer behavior

• Changing demographics

• Increase in online learning

What are the challenges to implementing a

CBE program?

• Accreditation

• State coordinating and governing boards

• Accrediting agencies

• U.S. Department of Education

• Translation of competencies

• Faculty buy-in

• Resource support

• Title IV financial aid


Why in financial aid a hindrance to these models?

• Decoupling of seat time from academic progress...huh?

• Financial Aid Management (FAM) Systems are designed around the concept of structured periods of enrollment

• Non-Term Enrollment models designed for self-paced learning, but FAM systems not designed to manage resulting in manual processes:

• Increased compliance risk

• Slower service

• Labor cost considerations l 6


How can CBL be managed in an efficient and compliant manner?

• Need to carefully analyze systems limitations to determine what enrollment model will work for you

• Reach out to your colleagues on campus and financial aid colleagues at like institutions

• Ensure financial aid is a key stake holder from the beginning

Western Governors University

Founded in 1997

The principal mission of Western Governors

University is to improve quality and expand access to post-secondary academic opportunity by providing a means for individuals to learn independent of time or place and to earn competency-based degrees and other credentials that are credible to both academic institutions and employers .

Student Demographics

• Colleges: Information Technology, Business,

Teacher Education, and Health Professions

• Students are full-time, degree seeking at

Baccalaureate and Masters level

• Current enrollment > 44,000

• Most successful students:

– start with some college experience

– have work experience and motivation to earn degree

– average age is 36 years

Student Population

Growing Interest in CBE

Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of

Teaching re-examining the ‘Carnegie Unit’

Foundations working with regional accreditors and Dept of Ed to assure financial aid for CBE

Gates Foundation supported project includes

WA, IN, FL & TX colleges as partners

Adapting and Adopting Competency-Based IT

Instruction to Accelerate Learning funded by

Department of Labor’s (TAACCCT)

Partner Colleges Developing CBE Programs

Austin Community College, TX

Broward College, FL

Sinclair Community College, OH

FL – Valencia College

IN – Ivy Tech Community College (Ft Wayne &


TX – Lone Star Community College

WA – Bellevue College, Columbia Basin College,

Edmonds Community College, Community

College of Spokane

Design Principles for CBE

1) Degree reflects robust and valid competencies.

2) Students are able to learn at a variable pace and are supported in their learning.

3) Effective learning resources are available to students anytime and are reusable.

4) The process for mapping competencies to courses/learning outcomes/assessments is explicit.

5) The assessments are secure and reliable.

WGU Financial Aid Background

• HEA Reauthorization 1998 – eligible institution

• Distance Education Demonstration Program

– Competency-based Model

• Education Domains

• No Grades (Narrative Transcript)

• Unbundled Faculty Model (Mentoring and Assessment)

– Direct costs only in cost of attendance calculation

– Non-Term (6 month payment periods)

– SAP 100% successful completion every term

– Students start 365 days a year

– 100% Distance Education

WGU Financial Aid Background

• Lessons Learned

– Cost of Attendance (direct and indirect) – EFC = Need

– Introduction of Competency Units (CUs)

– Non-Standard Term – borrower based academic year

– 6-Month Terms begin on the first of each month

– Grades of Pass and Not Pass (not narrative, not pass/fail)

– 66.67% Cumulative Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)

– Flat term-based tuition to encourage acceleration

• Subscription model, fixed price per term regardless of CU’s

• Affordability of acceleration time to degree completion

Student Fraud Considerations

• WGU Orientation

– Begins the 15 th of each month

– Setting proper expectations – academic and financial

• Delay loan disbursement for all new students

– 30 day delay (45+ days of academic effort before $$$ )

• Duplicate address reports (US and E-mail, IP)

• Third party identity management/biometrics

• Verification of identity

– Notarized statement of educational purpose

Federal Financial Aid Delivery

• Academic Year (AY) – payment periods

– ED defines AY as minimum of 24 credits and 30 weeks

• Standard Term (Full-time, ¾ time, ½ time)

– Semester/Quarter/Trimester

– Fall/Spring and sometimes summer (header or trailer)

• Non-Standard Term (Full-time, ¾ and ½ time)

– Multiple entry points - Borrower Based Academic Year

• Non-Term and Clock Hour

– Full-time - successfully complete 24 credits or 900 hours

Measurement of SAP

Competency Based Model

• Degree Plan – no electives

• Academic Activity Verification (AAV)

• Qualitative Measure (Pass = B or better)

– Mastery of subject matter (3.0 GPA exceeds 2.5 required)

• Quantitative Measure

– Attempted versus completed

– Institutional policy on treatment of transfer credits

• SAP appeal approval requires Academic Plan

• On-Time Progress (OTP) to Graduation

– At least 12 CUs per six month term

SAP Overview

• Financial aid only awarded up to 150% of the program length

• At least 66.67% Cumulative SAP = Good Standing

• Less than 66.67% Term SAP = Warning

• New students less than 3 CUs per term = Terminated

• Termination and SAP Appeals

– Extenuating circumstances documentation & situation improvement

– If approved, must complete 100% until cum SAP > 66.67%

• Unintended consequences

• Meeting OTP in a term does not necessarily mean the student is meeting cumulative SAP requirements

• 12/20 = 60.00% - OTP is good, SAP is bad - discouraging

Other Regulatory

• Definition of Credit Hour 34 CFR 600.2

– www.ifap.ed.gov

Hot Topics - Program Integrity

• Distance Education Definition 34 CFR 600.2

– …support regular and substantive interaction between students and faculty

• Direct Assessment 34 CFR 668.10

– DCL GEN-13-10 (March 19, 2013)

• Return to Title IV (R2T4) 34 CFR 668.22

– Withdrawal date of determination

– Definitions of academic attendance, academic-related activity