Competency Based Education

Competency Based Education (CBE) also known as Competency Based Learning, is an outcomes based approach to education, and one of the most talked about subjects in higher education today. The most defining characteristic of a CBE program is the manner in which academic progress is measured. Rather than measuring learning based on seat time, learning is evaluated on mastery of subject matter, thereby decoupling seat time from academic progress.  The evaluation of competency is based on a combination of skills, abilities and knowledge. As institutions across the country grapple with the changing needs of learners while at the same time addressing the escalating cost of an education, the opportunities CBE represent become increasingly important. 

How does Competency Based Education (CBE) work?

Most colleges and universities use a credit or clock hour to measure academic progress. If a student is taking a three credit course, it is expected that the student will spend nine hours per week in class or doing homework to obtain 3 credits for their transcript. Under a CBE model, this approach is dismantled-and a students’ time to completion is based on their ability to demonstrate mastery of the subject matter. Unlike a credit hour approach learning is the constant, and time is the variable.

One of the fundamental differences of a CBE program is the inability of a student to complete  a program with the equivalent understanding of a C grade, as a  grade of C would not exhibit mastery. Students obtaining a degree  in a competency based program will not be able to gradate with only an average understanding of the material-something that is very appealing to employers.

There is no single approach to how institutions have structured their CBE programs, and the business practices vary greatly form institution to institutions. However, they all share the critical differentiator-academic progression is no longer correlated to how long a student sits in a chair. 

What are some of the challenges institutions faced when implementing a CBE program?

There are numerous challenges institutions must consider. Below are some universal challenges faced by institutions:

  • Faculty buy in
  • Translation of competencies
  • Accreditation
  • Resource support
  • Student information systems that rely on the credit hour
  • Administration of Title IV Aid

Why is the administration of Title IV aid so challenging with a CBE program?

Financial aid management systems have been designed around the concept of structured periods of enrollment-an approach that does not align with the way a CBE program is intended to function. Non-term is a Title IV approved model that enables students to progress at their own pace, and not be hindered by arbitrary start and end dates. However, the limitations of financial aid software are preventing many institutions from utilizing this approach. Supporting a non-term model requires abandoning the structured period of enrollment approach, something that cannot be accomplished without a complete redesign. 

How can Regent 8 help with CBE?

Regent 8 is the only financial aid management solution to offer complete support for all enrollment models including non-term. Regent 8 was designed from inception to support all models, with an architectural design that is fundamentally different from other solutions. Additionally, with Regent 8 institutions can utilize more than one model so that they can support the needs of multiple institutions with a single solution.

Regent 8 is delivered via a cloud based model, enabling institutions to be up-to-date and remain compliant with the most recent Federal regulations and updates. Built on the most advanced technology platform, Regent 8 delivers the latest in performance, usability and flexibility. Regent 8 is changing the way institutions approach the administration of financial aid, and is the only software solution on the market today that enables institutions to offer competency based education without being inhibited by the limitations of their financial aid management system.

Why should schools consider starting a CBE program?

Enrolling in these programs can save students thousands of dollars and for some, put them on the path to a fast tracked degree. In March 2013, the U.S. Department of Education made it easier for schools offering competency based programs to become eligible to offer financial aid. Colleges may apply for Title IV aid under the “direct assessment” provision of the Higher Education Act.


For more information please visit these helpful resources:

Southern New Hampshire University Selects Regent Education's Financial Aid Management Solution, Regent 8 Press Release

About Regent 8

Dear Colleague Letter: GEN 14-23: Competency-Based Education Programs – Questions and Answers