Posts Tagged ‘distance education’

Federal Audit Adds Clarity to Competency-Based Education Policies for Colleges and Universities

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

CBE photoIn the postsecondary world there is growing interest in Competency-Based Education (CBE), a strategy that organizes learning around mastery rather than seat time. CBE is already considered a promising strategy in secondary Career Technical Education (CTE) because it allows students to learn at their own pace in a flexible environment and helps them develop the skills necessary to be successful in their future careers. However, a newly published audit from the U.S. Office of the Inspector General shows that, in order for CBE programs to thrive, the higher education community will need to ensure that students receive regular, substantive interaction with their instructors.

The target of the audit is the Senior College and University Commission (part of an accrediting agency called the Western Association of Schools and Colleges), which reviews and accredits postsecondary programs in California, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands. Among the Commission’s responsibilities is evaluating course content to ensure that the purposes, methods of delivery and measurement of learning are aligned with federal policy. These evaluations carry a lot of weight — programs are eligible to receive federal grant funding under Title IV of the Higher Education Act depending on the results of the evaluation — which is why the Inspector General audited the Commission’s review process.

While CBE has enjoyed bipartisan support, the Federal Government’s priority is to ensure that CBE programs are held to high standards of quality. That is why the Higher Education Act restricts federal funding depending on the way that educational content is delivered. Traditionally, academic content has been delivered in a classroom environment, which is considered “campus-based education.” Non-traditional methods of delivery can still qualify for federal funding, but the amount of funding is contingent on the quality of instruction.

CBE courses that are delivered off-campus and are supported by “regular and substantive interaction between the instructor and student” are classified as distance education. In contrast, courses in which education is self-paced and interaction between the student and instructor is limited are considered correspondence education. Correspondence education has implications for funding because students enrolled in such courses are only eligible for a half-time Federal Pell Grant Award.

At issue in the Inspector General’s audit is the way that the Commission classifies courses as distance or correspondence education. The audit found that the Commission did not sufficiently evaluate whether courses would be considered correspondence education, meaning that some courses could have been classified incorrectly. While the Commission does not have the authority to approve correspondence courses — this authority is outside of the Commission’s scope — it is still responsible for identifying them. After receiving the Inspector General’s audit, the Commission revised its policies and procedures to ensure that students in CBE programs receive regular and substantive interaction with their instructors.

The Shared Vision for the Future of CTE calls on states and institutions to “embrace postsecondary competency-based education models … to expand access for more learners, and provide more flexibility so all individuals can get the skills they need when they need them.” While the Federal Government has already created avenues to promote CBE in higher education, accrediting agencies should consider how they evaluate the methods of delivery for CBE programs in order to realize this vision.

Austin Estes, Policy Associate

By Austin Estes in News, Public Policy
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Legislative Update: ESEA, Higher Education Regs, i3 Grants, Bills Introduced

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

House Passes Two ESEA Bills with CTE Elements

This week the House Education and the Workforce Committee held a markup of two recently introduced ESEA bills, H.R. 3989, the Student Success Act and H.R. 3990, the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act. The Committee approved both pieces of legislation by party-line votes of 23 to 16.

The Student Success Act included elements of the Education for Tomorrows Jobs Act, a bill introduced by Rep. Glenn Thompson (PA) last year. The bill allows school districts to use ESEA funds to integrate academic and technical education, and encourages the creation of partnerships between school districts, institutes of higher education, business and industry, and other stakeholders.

The markup was largely partisan with Democrats opposing the bills and offering substitute bills as their only amendments. There were several Republican amendments to note. Rep. Todd Rokita’s (IN) amendment to reduce the number of U.S. Department of Education staffers was accepted along a party-line vote. However, an amendment from Rep. Thompson to change the Title I funding formula to help smaller population districts was defeated by a vote of 22-16. Such a change would have benefited rural areas, such as Mr. Thompson’s district. Ranking Member George Miller (CA) argued that a change to the formula like the one proposed would not be fair to high population districts that would lose money.

Chairman Kline (MN) intends to move the bills to the floor for a vote in the near future. We will keep you posted on the progress of these two pieces of legislation.

House Passes Bill to Repeal Two Higher Education Regulations

The House this week passed H.R. 2117, the Protecting Academic Freedom in Higher Education Act by a vote of 303 to 114. This bill would permanently repeal the credit hour and state authorization regulations (which went into effect July 1, 2011), with the goal of reducing college costs and increasing student choice. More specifically, the legislation would prohibit the Secretary of Education from promulgating or enforcing any rule that defines “credit hour,” and would ease the burden on distance education programs from meet any state requirements in the state where the student is located. The Senate has not indicated whether they will vote on similar legislation.

Next Round of i3 Grants Available

The Department of Education is now accepting pre-applications for the next round of Investing in Innovation (i3) Development grants. The i3 development grants provide up to $3 million to support “new projects or programs with high potential for success but which have been implemented previously in only limited contexts.” The deadline to submit a pre-application is April 9, 2012.

Bills Introduced

Student Right to Know Before You Go Act

Sen. Ron Wyden (OR) introduced S. 2098, the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act, which intends to give students and their families the information they need to make better informed decisions about pursuing higher education. In its simplest terms, the bill would make it easier for students to find information about how long it would take get their degree, how much debt they could expect to owe after graduation, and how much they can expect to earn in a given field.

Nancy Conneely, Public Policy Manager

By Nancy in Legislation, Public Policy
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Shape of Obama “job training, vocational education and community college” Plan Emerging

Monday, June 29th, 2009

You will recall that earlier this year President Obama mentioned that he was undertaking a “fundamental rethinking of our job training, vocational education, and community college programs”.  Earlier this month, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel reinforced this idea, noting that there would soon be a “major announcement”. 

While an announcement has not been officially made, details of a draft plan have emerged.  A story reported by Inside Higher Ed on June 29 focuses on four major elements of the draft.  The following description of what the draft includes is taken from the Inside Higher Ed article.  If you would like to read the entire article you can go to http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/06/29/ccplan

Online classes:  According to the draft materials from the administration, the program would support the development of 20-25 “high quality” courses a year, with a mix of high school and community college courses. Initial preference would go to “career oriented” courses. The courses would be owned by the government and would be free for anyone to take. Courses would be selected competitively, through peer review, for support.”

National Skills College: “Under the plan, the government would also support a “National Skills College” at a community college that would, among other things, work to develop examinations that could be given at the end of the courses so that colleges, employers and students could judge how much learning had taken place. Course developers would be asked to consult with colleges on standards, so that the offerings could be created with the goal of having credit transferred to many institutions.”

Job Training Programs: “The discussion draft for the job training program calls for spending $500 million a year in the first five years of the program, during which grants would be awarded competitively to community colleges, and $1.3 billion after that, at which point 50 percent of funds would be awarded by formula to states, 25 percent awarded to those states showing high performance programs, and 25 percent to community colleges, awarded competitively.  To be eligible, community colleges would need to agree to track and report on student outcomes, and to set targets for graduation rates and “employment-related outcomes,” while also serving “high need populations.”

Loan Fund for Facilities: “The loan fund for community college facilities would receive $10 billion under the plan. The loans would be for 10 years for repairs and renovations and 25 years for construction, and the plan calls for the loans to be “zero or low interest.” The funds would first be distributed to states, which would have to pledge that these funds would not cause states to cut funds for the colleges. States would distribute funds based on “demonstrated need,” with an emphasis on expanding capacity in programs that “meet employer needs in the areas of health care, green jobs, science, engineering and technology.”

 Specifics of this plan may still change as final adjustments are made, but a formal announcement of this plan may come as early as later this month.

 

By admin in Public Policy
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