CBE programs face challenges of growth at many institutions, report finds
- For mainstream colleges and universities, competency-based education programs remain the exception to the norm, and "program stability and institutional readiness" are vital to their success, according to the second annual report on CBE programs from Eduventures, in conjunction with Ellucian and the American Council on Education.
- The report found the most successful programs come from the institutions where CBE programs where not brand new, but were receiving revived interest from institutions and educators. The schools with effective programs also more often used experienced individuals from within the institution, rather than outside hires or consultants.
- The analysis concludes that progress on instituting new CBE programs in a widespread manner will be "incremental," with the heads of many CBE programs reporting that they had become used to the halting momentum of creating such programs. Schools working to institute these options should conduct a "self-assessment of institutional readiness" in order to prepare, the report stated.
While individual schools reported different levels of progress in the report, there are indications that state legislatures are recognizing the need for investment into CBE programs; in the previous legislative year, at least five state legislatures considered bills to boost CBE measures in their states. An analysis of the state of CBE programs, and whether they could take a more prominent role in colleges and universities in the years to come painted a mixed picture; however, the report did find that 68% of students in CBE programs are adult learners. Educators and experts across the country have noted the increased percentage of adult learners and nontraditional students in the applicant pool, with experts warning that higher ed institutions remain wedded to the notion of servicing a traditional post-high school student exclusively at their own financial peril.
The demographics suggest that CBE programs could be a successful investment for colleges and universities. Additionally, there is bipartisan support among lawmakers for a variety of alternative education and credential programs and approaches, with President Trump indicating a support for boosting federal support for apprenticeship programs. CBE programs offer flexibility to learners to proceed at their own pace, which can be another boon for institutions determining how to conduct outreach and marketing for nascent CBE programs. Webster University Online Director Michael Cottam said in a recent Education Dive interview that adult learners tend to be more comfortable and desirous of flexibility due to increased professional and personal commitments. CBE could be an increasingly attractive option to such a potential student population.