WASHINGTON, D.C. | April 2, 2014 -
Student demographics are changing rapidly and remarkably. The days when the majority of college students were between the ages of 18 and 22, attending college full-time right after graduating from high school, are over. Today more than half of postsecondary students are so-called “non-traditional” students.
These contemporary students often have families, work full- or part-time, and are financially independent. They return to school with one overarching goal: to quickly and affordably gain new skills that will help them compete for area jobs and new career opportunities. Recognizing this new demand, higher education institutions are exploring new modes of education delivery.
To help students earn a degree faster, a number of schools now offer prior learning assessments. Students are evaluated based on their existing knowledge in a particular subject, providing the opportunity to progress in a degree program without being forced to first complete redundant or unnecessary courses.
At a previous hearing, Council for Adult and Experimental Learning president and CEO Dr. Pamela Tate shared examples of students who have benefitted from prior learning assessments, such as the Navy veteran who was able to use his military and job training to gain credits toward his bachelor’s degree in Industrial Manufacturing Engineering.
Other institutions are embracing technology, providing new opportunities for students to complete online courses at their own pace. At Western Governor’s University, the largest online-only institution, a flexible competency-based education model makes it easier for students to earn a degree while balancing the demands of family and work.
Recognizing some contemporary students may have previously earned college credits, or would like to earn a degree at a lower cost by fulfilling some course requirements at local community colleges, states are collaborating with institutions to implement comprehensive articulation agreements. These agreements make it easier for students to transfer credits between institutions, reducing redundancy and helping raise degree completion rates.
In Louisiana, for example, associate’s degrees earned at two-year community colleges are guaranteed to transfer completely to four-year institutions. Additionally, some states are expanding their articulation agreements to include bordering states and private institutions, providing students more flexibility and options when earning a postsecondary degree.
We are fortunate to have with us today an excellent panel of witnesses who can offer more examples of ways postsecondary institutions, private entities, and states are working to help contemporary students realize their education goals. We look forward to your testimony.
Supporting innovation in the nation’s colleges and universities remains a key priority for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. However, as we have seen in the K-12 education system, such innovation should be encouraged from the ground up, not mandated from Washington.
In recent years, the administration has tried repeatedly to impose new, burdensome regulations on the nation’s colleges and universities in the name of “program integrity.” The gainful employment, credit hour, and state authorization regulations have been widely rejected by education stakeholders, Congress, and the federal court system for the simple fact that these rules will hamper innovation, reduce academic freedom, and limit choice and opportunity in higher education.
The committee has advanced legislation to combat these controversial regulations, and will continue to explore additional opportunities to rein in the administration’s efforts to impose harmful mandates on students and schools. Additionally, as we begin drafting legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, we must include policies that promote – not dictate – continued innovation and flexibility in postsecondary institutions. We cannot allow federal barriers to stand in the way of the services and opportunities students deserve.
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