Colleges: Federal sign up available for competency experiments

Competency-based experiments, once buried, get new life and could be huge opportunity for colleges and universities

experiment-congress-competencyFrom badges to skills pathways, more higher ed institutions are not only feeling the pressure to accept, but realizing the benefits of implementing, alternative credentials for a broad range of students. And in an initiative once slowly decaying, the Department of Education (DOE) is now offering volunteer institutions a chance to sign up for the Experimental Sites Initiative for some regulatory perks.

The Experimental Sites Initiative was created by Congress through the DOE to help develop innovative and effective policies related to federal financial aid. And in what could be a great boon for colleges and universities, those that participate can have waived regulatory and/or statutory financial aid requirements. The perk for Congress is taking what works and implementing those practices on a large scale for future policies.

In other words, these ‘experiments’ “give Congress a way to see how policies might work before they are implemented writ large, hopefully mitigating unintended consequences (Evidence-based policy-making?! Crazy talk),” writes New America’s EdCentral.

Up until now, the Initiative was largely unfocused, with no timeline, goals, and supposedly served as a mere regulatory waiver for a few small schools; but thanks to recent pushes by both Congress and President Obama on college affordability, the DOE is taking another turn with the Initiative, placing higher standards on the outcomes and better focusing the mission…as well as better encouraging institutions to sign up.

(Next page: The innovative experiments and competencies part of the Initiative)

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