Calls from Washington for streamlined regulation and emerging models | Inside Higher Ed

  • tags: calls washington inside higher higher ed regulation emerging models

    • Time to Change the Rules?


    • A growing number of reform-minded lawmakers on Capitol Hill want to see more of online “innovations” like competency-based education. To help out, some are making noise about changing federal financial aid policy and the accreditation system.

    • The hearing and several emerging pieces of legislation are harbingers of how the looming debate over the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act might shake out.

      • How "big" of changes are we anticipating, seeing as how efficient we all know Washington DC lawmakers are.  Jaded much?  I know.
    • Under the bill, Lee said states could work with the U.S. Department of Education to sign agreements that would authorize the flow of federal financial aid to a wide range of course providers, some of which look nothing like colleges.

    • Andrew Kelly, however, likes Lee’s idea. Kelly, who is director of the American Enterprise Institute’s Center on Higher Education Reform, said it would create a credible alternative to the existing accreditation system, which the bill would leave intact.

    • “If state accreditation is offered as an alternative to federal accreditation, does this mean that government officials, not faculty, make judgments about teaching and learning?” she asked in an email.

      • I’m confused as to how accreditation by state or federal agencies will make any judgments about teaching and learning ?  Federal makes those "judgments" now ?  Am I missing something?
    • Several Democrats at the well-attended hearing seemed supportive of that approach. But they warned against opening the floodgates of aid to unscrupulous operators and low-value credentials.

    • Several panelists called for the expansion of the U.S. Department of Education’s “experimental sites” program, which allows colleges to try new approaches within a “safe space” of looser regulation and financial aid policies.

    • Earlier this week two Congressmen announced proposed legislation to do just that. The bill from Rep. Peter Welch, a Vermont Democrat, and Trey Gowdy, a Republican from South Carolina, would encourage experimental sites for competency-based programs, prior-learning assessment and accelerated degree programs.

      • This is looking more and more like an expanding set of opportunities for more customized, less cookie-cutter educational opportunities.
    • William (Brit) Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland, said he supports the expansion of competency-based education. And he said the federal rules governing financial aid make it hard for colleges to go big with those programs.


      “This isn’t a foreign idea to higher education,” said Kirwan, citing similar options, like Advanced Placement (AP) exams and other established forms of credit-by-exam. “We just need to recognize it.”

    • Kirwan and other panelists said they would support changes to the existing accreditation system that might make it easier for competency-based and other emerging forms of online education to spread.

    • One commonly cited criticism of accreditors is that they favor the status quo, in part because they are membership organizations of academics that essentially practice self-regulation.

    • For example, she cited four institutions that have begun offering competency-based degrees through a process called direct assessment, which is completely de-coupled from the credit-hour standard. Regional accreditors reviewed and gave a green light to those four programs, including Southern New Hampshire’s and LeBlanc’s very own College for America.

    • More competency-based degree offerings are on the way. And that suits Sen. Christopher Murphy just fine.


      “I believe that it is the future,” Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, said during the hearing. “It’s one of the ways to deliver a much more affordable product, with better results and metrics.”

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