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Kline Statement: H.R. 3136, the Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act

Across the country, millions of college students are getting ready to start the school year. They will soon say goodbye to family and friends and pursue their dream of a postsecondary education. Unfortunately, many Americans are struggling to turn that dream into reality.

The higher education system we know today is too costly, too bureaucratic, and outdated. Some are having a hard time fitting the traditional college experience into a busy lifestyle that already includes work, family, or both. Others are graduating with a pile of debt and no job prospects.

A college degree can open the door to a bright and prosperous future, yet too often obstacles stand in the way. Ultimately states and institutions must provide the answers students and families need, but Congress has a role to play as well.

First and foremost, we need to continue promoting policies that will get this economy moving again, so every college graduate who wants a job can find a job. We can also adopt commonsense reforms that will improve our higher education system.

Today the House will begin to do just that. We have an opportunity right now to advance reforms that will support innovation and empower students to make informed decisions about their college careers. H.R. 3136 is the first step in that effort.

The bipartisan Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act will allow institutions to expand an innovative approach to higher education, known as competency-based education.

This model of education defines a set of skills for a field of work and then measures student progress in acquiring those skills. Once a student demonstrates a level of skill or competency, he or she can move to the next step in the academic program.

Instead of awarding a student credit hours for time spent in class, competency-based education allows a student to learn at a pace tailored to his or her specific needs. If you’re a single mom, you may need more time to complete your degree while juggling the demands of work and kids. Or if you’re a dad out of a job with a family to support, four years sitting in a classroom is time you do not have.

Competency-based education holds tremendous promise. It allows students to earn a degree in less time and even at a lower cost than in a traditional education setting. Yet it is difficult for institutions to expand this innovative model under a system that values time over learning.

H.R. 3136 will help us move in a different direction. The legislation directs the secretary of education to authorize a number of demonstration projects to test and strengthen competency-based education.

Among other provisions, the legislation requires the secretary to focus on programs that are designed to reduce costs and the time it takes to earn a degree. The bill requires a thorough evaluation of each demonstration project so policymakers learn which programs demonstrate success and what specific roadblocks are standing in the way.

This is a good bill that will help make a difference in the lives of students and families. I want to thank the bipartisan authors of the legislation, Representatives Matt Salmon, Jared Polis, and Susan Brooks. I urge my colleagues to support the bill and reserve the balance of my time.

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