Last month the U.S. Education Department sent a message to colleges: Financial aid may be awarded based on students’ mastery of “competencies” rather than their accumulation of credits. That has major ramifications for institutions hoping to create new education models that don’t revolve around the amount of time that students spend in class.
Now one of those models has cleared a major hurdle. The Education Department has approved the eligibility of Southern New Hampshire University to receive federal financial aid for students enrolled in a new, self-paced online program called College for America, the private, nonprofit university has announced.
Southern New Hampshire bills its College for America program as “the first degree program to completely decouple from the credit hour.” Unlike the typical experience in which students advance by completing semester-long, multicredit courses, students in College for America have no courses or traditional professors. These working-adult students make progress toward an associate degree by demonstrating mastery of 120 competencies. Competencies are phrased as “can do” statements, such as “can use logic, reasoning, and analysis to address a business problem” or “can analyze works of art in terms of their historical and cultural contexts.” <Read more.>