Going Back to College and the Competency-Based Model Part 3

A competency-based college education can help a student:

1) Save time - If you have already mastered a subject area, you can prove your competency through continuous assessment – and move as quickly as your existing knowledge allows. Your existing knowledge base and experience acts as catalysts accelerating you down your path towards graduation. In fact, in a competency-based educational environment, current skills and past educational experiences are rewarded – no matter when or where that training and education occurred.

2) Save money – If you are able to speed up the time it takes to move through assessments and prove competency in subject areas leading directly to your degree, you will be required to spend less time enrolled in college and paying tuition. Furthermore, competency-related online college course providers like StraighterLine can help you access extremely inexpensive subscription rates ($99/month plus a one-time registration fee of $49 per course) to advance quickly through prerequisite college courses and gain the competencies you need for your degree.

3) Earn concrete proof of skills in your chosen field – Employers often look for a specific set of skills from prospective employees. Students graduating with a college degree focused on competencies offer a unique, skills-based proposition for potential employers. Not only does a competency-based degree verify skill relevance in a given field, it parallels the way many corporations set up their own training programs, tuition assistance programs and requirements for career advancement and promotion.

With Competency-Based Education, There’s Another Way to Go Back to College

It’s time to dive a bit deeper into the concept that is a competency-based education. Let’s explore what kind of effect a competency-based education can have on you as an individual student by revisiting the same series of steps we approached initially as you go back to college.

1 - You decide to go to college.

Smart move – no matter what kind of college you choose (online or on-campus). According to the most recent salary data, college graduates earn, on average, 66% more over the course of a lifetime than high school graduates.4

2 - You apply to an online college or university.

In this age of pervasive technology, there is no longer any reason to consider geography as the leading factor in choosing a college.

As an adult learner, your leading concerns are most likely college cost and schedule flexibility. Online colleges and universities, in combination with online college course providers, offer incredible value, and a self-paced, flexible learning environment.

Additionally, some of the leaders in online education are also leaders in competency-based college education. The leading online competency-based college education providers include: Western Governors University (WGU), Excelsior College, Kaplan University, SUNY Empire State College, and StraighterLine.

Each of these institutions offers you the opportunity to put your past experience, skills, and knowledge to good use by allowing you to prove, through continual, real-time assessments, what you already know. With a competency-based educator, there’s no reason to waste three months in a college algebra course (and pay the corresponding tuition prices) if you already know most of the material. With a competency-based education provider, you can move rapidly through material you already know by taking exams when you are ready, and slowing down as necessary when you encounter new or more challenging information. Alternatively, you can take advantage of Prior Learning Assessments (PLAs) to completely bypass certain required course material all together.

4 College Board, Education Pays 2010: Lifetime Earnings, p.1