The Education Commission of the States has released a new Policy Snapshot, noting:

Policymakers increasingly look at innovative ways for students to access postsecondary education. This Policy Snapshot, Competency-Based Education, defines competency-based education and provides an overview of current and previous legislation. The Policy Snapshot provide a summary of 2016 and 2017 legislative activities, as well as legislation, board policies and programs from previous years. 

The main goal of competency-based education serves to award credit/degrees to students for meeting specific skill competencies agreed upon by faculty, industry leaders and workforce representatives. This innovative delivery model could create greater access to postsecondary education for returning adults, low-income students and working adults needing additional skills. 

·        There is the increasing need for highly-skilled employees in the workplace has policymakers and higher education leaders focused on innovative ways for students to access postsecondary education.  These access points can include online programs, prior learning assessments and, the subject of this snapshot, competency-based education.  

·        The National Center on Education Statistics future projections show the adult population in postsecondary education growing at a higher percentage than students under the age of 25.2 With an influx of adult students, states are beginning to experiment with alternative modes of learning and accumulating credit, including competency-based education.  

·        Although competency-based education is not limited to the adult student population, these students typically encompass the majority of the population in these programs. Adult students have specific needs for postsecondary success including increased course flexibility through additional course section offerings in their major and multiple options for financial aid and affordability.  

·        Competency-based education programs often provide a lower cost, allow students to work at their own pace and may or may not incur assessment fees. The adult workforce population looking to up-skill may also benefit from competency-based education programs. Competency-based education policies may not be as far-reaching or prevalent statewide as prior learning assessments, as these policies may create a non-traditional education delivery model. Many of the introduced and enacted policies include studies on how to integrate competency-based education into current institutions or provide a specific program/ institution for this delivery model.