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A faster, cheaper way to go through college – and emerge 'competent'?

Advocates of competency-based learning see it as a potential game changer for higher education. The approach can make college degrees more affordable, and can assure employers that graduates have mastered a defined set of ideas and skills.

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Stephanie Malley packs into her days working a full-time job, raising four children, and pursuing a college degree. She found the traditional online path slow going, both because of the cost and the structure of the classes.

Then she found College for America at the nonprofit Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) in Manchester. CFA partners with employers, including Ms. Malley's, to offer low-cost, competency-based associate's degrees to their employees.

Instead of locking into at least two years of classes to earn credits, students work on projects at their own pace, submitting work to trained reviewers – many of them faculty members – until they've mastered all 120 defined "competencies."

 

Malley expects to complete her degree in less than a year – about three times faster than she could have with traditional online learning – and then go on to earn a bachelor's degree, perhaps at CFA.

Advocates of competency-based learning see it as a potential game changer for higher education. The approach can make college degrees more affordable, and at the same time can assure employers that the graduates they're hiring have mastered a defined set of ideas and skills.

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