Postsecondary CBE: A Primer for Policymakers

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The traditional college-age population is shrinking: fewer high school graduates pursue higher education each year, resulting in declining student enrollment at colleges across the country. At the same time, there are now more than 40 million Americans who have stopped out of college with some credit and no credential or degree.

  • By opting out or stopping out and making different choices, learners are signaling that the traditional model is not working for them.
  • Feeling that pressure of enrollment declines and increasing student options, efforts to redesign options for learners are underway at some institutions.
  • Offering online courses is enough flexibility for some learners, but other efforts go beyond online modality and change the fundamental model.
  • Learning models, such as competency-based education, provide the potential for a greater range of flexible options.

In a new brief, Postsecondary CBE: A Primer for Policymakers, the Center for Higher Education Policy and Practice (CHEPP) and AIR outline what competency-based education (CBE) is, how it works, the potential benefits to learners, and how institutional practice is driven by federal higher education policy. The goal of this primer is to provide policymakers with valuable information about CBE as they consider how institutions of higher education can meet the needs of more learners across the country.