[House Hearing, 113 Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]

KEEPING COLLEGE WITHIN REACH: IMPROVING HIGHER EDUCATION THROUGH
INNOVATION

=======================================================================

HEARING

before the

COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION
AND THE WORKFORCE
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

ONE HUNDRED THIRTEENTH CONGRESS

FIRST SESSION

__________

HEARING HELD IN WASHINGTON, DC, JULY 9, 2013

__________

Serial No. 113-26

__________

Printed for the use of the Committee on Education and the Workforce

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COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND THE WORKFORCE

JOHN KLINE, Minnesota, Chairman

Thomas E. Petri, Wisconsin           George Miller, California,
Howard P. Buck'' McKeon,             Senior Democratic Member
California                       Robert E. Andrews, New Jersey
Joe Wilson, South Carolina           Robert C. Bobby'' Scott,
Virginia Foxx, North Carolina            Virginia
Tom Price, Georgia                   Ruben Hinojosa, Texas
Kenny Marchant, Texas                Carolyn McCarthy, New York
Duncan Hunter, California            John F. Tierney, Massachusetts
David P. Roe, Tennessee              Rush Holt, New Jersey
Glenn Thompson, Pennsylvania         Susan A. Davis, California
Tim Walberg, Michigan                Raul M. Grijalva, Arizona
Matt Salmon, Arizona                 Timothy H. Bishop, New York
Brett Guthrie, Kentucky              David Loebsack, Iowa
Scott DesJarlais, Tennessee          Joe Courtney, Connecticut
Todd Rokita, Indiana                 Marcia L. Fudge, Ohio
Larry Bucshon, Indiana               Jared Polis, Colorado
Trey Gowdy, South Carolina           Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan,
Lou Barletta, Pennsylvania             Northern Mariana Islands
Martha Roby, Alabama                 John A. Yarmuth, Kentucky
Joseph J. Heck, Nevada               Frederica S. Wilson, Florida
Susan W. Brooks, Indiana             Suzanne Bonamici, Oregon
Richard Hudson, North Carolina
Luke Messer, Indiana

Juliane Sullivan, Staff Director
Jody Calemine, Minority Staff Director

C O N T E N T S

----------
Page

Hearing held on July 9, 2013.....................................     1

Statement of Members:
Kline, Hon. John, Chairman, Committee on Education and the
Workforce..................................................     1
Prepared statement of....................................     3
Miller, Hon. George, senior Democratic member, Committee on
Education and the Workforce................................     4
Prepared statement of....................................     6

Statement of Witnesses:
Boughman, Dr. Joann, senior vice chancellor for academic
affairs, University System of Maryland.....................    21
Prepared statement of....................................    23
Jenkins, Alan Scott, director of external relations, Western
Governors University.......................................     8
Prepared statement of....................................     9
Smith, Burck, CEO and founder, StraighterLine, Inc...........    26
Prepared statement of....................................    29
Tate, Dr. Pamela J., president and chief executive officer,
Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL).........    12
Prepared statement of....................................    14

Mr. Jenkins, response to questions submitted for the record..    66
Questions submitted for the record by:
Foxx, Hon. Virginia, a Representative in Congress from
the State of North Carolina............................    65
Chairman Kline...........................................    64
Polis, Hon. Jared, a Representative in Congress from the
Dr. Tate:....................................................
Underserved Students Who Earn Credit Through Prior
Learning Assessment (PLA) Have Higher Degree Completion
Rates and Shorter Time-to-Degree,'' research brief,
April 2011, Internet address to........................    21
Fueling the Race to Postsecondary Success: A 48-
Institution Study of Prior Learning Assessment and
Adult Student Outcomes,'' executive summary, February
State Policy Approaches to Support Prior Learning
Assessment,'' a resource guide for state leaders, 2012,

KEEPING COLLEGE WITHIN REACH:
IMPROVING HIGHER EDUCATION
THROUGH INNOVATION

----------

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

U.S. House of Representatives

Committee on Education and the Workforce

Washington, DC

----------

The committee met, pursuant to call, at 10:04 a.m., in room
2175, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. John Kline [chairman
of the committee] presiding.
Present: Representatives Kline, Petri, Wilson, Foxx, Roe,
Thompson, Walberg, Guthrie, DesJarlais, Rokita, Bucshon, Gowdy,
Roby, Brooks, Hudson, Miller, Andrews, Hinojosa, Tierney,
Davis, Grijalva, Bishop, Courtney, Polis, Sablan, and Bonamici.
Staff present: Katherine Bathgate, Deputy Press Secretary;
James Bergeron, Director of Education and Human Services
Policy; Casey Buboltz, Coalitions and Member Services
Coordinator; Heather Couri, Deputy Director of Education and
Human Services Policy; Amy Raaf Jones, Education Policy Counsel
and Senior Advisor; Nancy Locke, Chief Clerk; Brian Melnyk,
Professional Staff Member; Krisann Pearce, General Counsel;
Nicole Sizemore, Deputy Press Secretary; Emily Slack,
Legislative Assistant; Alex Sollberger, Communications
Director; Alissa Strawcutter, Deputy Clerk; Juliane Sullivan,
Staff Director; Tylease Alli, Minority Clerk/Intern and Fellow
Coordinator; Kelly Broughan, Minority Education Policy
Associate; Jody Calemine, Minority Staff Director; Tiffany
Edwards, Minority Press Secretary for Education; Jamie Fasteau,
Minority Director of Education Policy; Eunice Ikene, Minority
Staff Assistant; Rich Williams, Minority Education Policy
Advisor; Michael Zola, Minority Deputy Staff Director; and Mark
Chairman Kline. A quorum being present, the committee will
come to order.
Good morning. Welcome. We have a truly excellent panel of
witnesses here with us today, and I thank each of them for
joining us.
When we consider how higher education is changing, most of
us probably think about rising tuition. And that is a fair
connection, after all. In-state tuition and fees at public 4-
year universities have shot up 81 percent in the last decade,
and similar trends can be seen in private institutions and 2-
year degree programs.
But tuition increases aren't the only changes affecting our
nation's higher education system. Student demographics are also
evolving.
The number of so-called traditional'' students--young
people who enroll in college full time upon graduating high
school--is on the decline. According to the National Center for
Education Statistics, nontraditional'' students--those who
decide to earn a degree later in life, perhaps while working
full time--are now the fastest-growing segment in postsecondary
education.
Together, these two very different trends are sparking
widespread demand for new and innovative modes of delivering a
quality postsecondary education at a more affordable price, and
states, institutions, and private entities are rising to the
challenge.
Several states, including Kentucky and Wisconsin, are
embracing competency-based models of education. These programs
establish the skills a student needs to succeed in a given
field of study, provide the student with all the necessary
materials, and give him or her the opportunity to learn the
materials with the help of tutors or instructional mentors at
his or her own pace. Once the student is ready, he or she
demonstrates competency in the subject through an exam.
Recognizing the amount of time a student spends in the
classroom isn't the only way to measure learning, a growing
number of colleges and universities now offer prior learning
assessments. These assessments determine whether the knowledge
a student has obtained through previous education or work
experience merits college credit, helping students avoid the
redundancy of taking courses they simply don't need.
Like competency-based models and prior learning
assessments, online coursework provides another flexible
alternative to the traditional college classroom setting--
something that is particularly beneficial to nontraditional
students who have family or career obligations. Instead of
forcing students to deal with limited enrollment and high
tuition, Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, provide
students the opportunity to take the courses they want, when
they want, all from the comfort of home.
According to the Sloan Consortium's annual survey of online
learning, nearly 7 million students took at least one online
course during the fall 2011 term, an increase of more than half
a million students over the previous year. Building on the
popularity of MOOCs and online coursework, private entities are
also offering general education classes online at a nominal
fee, helping students complete prerequisite coursework or
finish earning a degree faster and more affordably.
As we continue to prepare for reauthorization of the Higher
Education Act, we must ensure federal policies support these
state and local efforts to challenge the status quo and pioneer
new modes of education delivery. I remain concerned some
federal regulations advanced as part of the Obama
administration's package of program integrity mandates could
stand in the way of the higher education innovation students
want and so desperately need.
The heavy-handed Gainful Employment, State Authorization,
and Credit Hour regulations will almost certainly prevent
states and institutions from continuing to find new ways to
offer students a quality education at a lower price. There is
bipartisan agreement these regulations create unnecessary
burdens for students and schools and should be repealed. Rest
assured the committee will continue working toward this goal in
the coming months.
Once again, I would like to thank our witnesses for
participating today. I look forward to gaining their
perspectives on ways states, institutions, and private entities
are supporting innovation in our nation's higher education
system.
With that, I would like to yield to the senior Democratic
member of the committee, George Miller, for his opening
remarks.
[The statement of Chairman Kline follows:]

Prepared Statement of Hon. John Kline, Chairman,
Committee on Education and the Workforce

Good morning, and welcome. We have an excellent panel of witnesses
here with us today, and I thank each of them for joining us.
When we consider how higher education is changing, most of us
probably think about rising tuition. And that's a fair connection;
after all, in-state tuition and fees at public four-year universities
have shot up 81 percent in the last decade, and similar trends can be
seen at private institutions and two-year degree programs.
But tuition increases aren't the only changes affecting our
nation's higher education system. Student demographics are also
evolving. The number of so-called traditional'' students--young
people who enroll in college full time upon graduating high school--is
on the decline. According to the National Center for Education
Statistics, non-traditional'' students--those who decide to earn a
degree later in life, perhaps while working full-time--are now the
fastest growing segment in postsecondary education.
Together, these two very different trends are sparking widespread
demand for new and innovative modes of delivering a quality
postsecondary education at a more affordable price--and states,
institutions, and private entities are rising to the challenge.
Several states, including Kentucky and Wisconsin, are embracing
competency-based models of education. These programs establish the
skills a student needs to succeed in a given field of study, provide
the student with all the necessary materials, and give him or her the
opportunity to learn the materials with the help of tutors or
instructional mentors at his or her own pace. Once the student is
ready, he or she demonstrates competency in the subject manner through
an exam.
Recognizing the amount of time a student spends in the classroom
isn't the only way to measure learning, a growing number of colleges
and universities now offer prior learning assessments. These
assessments determine whether the knowledge a student has obtained
through previous education or work experience merits college credit,
helping students avoid the redundancy of taking courses they simply
don't need.
Like competency-based models and prior learning assessments, online
coursework provides another flexible alternative to the traditional
college classroom setting, something that is particularly beneficial to
of forcing students to deal with limited enrollment and high tuition,
Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, provide students the opportunity
to take the courses they want, when they want--all from the comfort of
home.
According to the Sloan Consortium's annual survey of online
learning, nearly 7 million students took at least one online course
during the fall 2011 term, an increase of more than half a million
students over the previous year. Building on the popularity of MOOCs
and online coursework, private entities are also offering general
education classes online at a nominal fee, helping students complete
prerequisite coursework or finish earning a degree faster and more
affordably.
As we continue to prepare for reauthorization of the Higher
Education Act, we must ensure federal policies support these state and
local efforts to challenge the status quo and pioneer new modes of
education delivery. I remain concerned some federal regulations
advanced as part of the Obama administration's package of program
integrity'' mandates could stand in the way of the higher education
innovation students want and so desperately need.
The heavy-handed Gainful Employment, State Authorization, and
Credit Hour regulations will almost certainly prevent states and
institutions from continuing to find new ways to offer students a
quality education at a lower price. There is bipartisan agreement these
regulations create unnecessary burdens for students and schools, and
should be repealed. Rest assured the committee will continue working
toward this goal in the coming months.
Once again, I'd like to thank our witnesses for participating
today. I look forward to gaining their perspectives on ways states,
institutions, and private entities are supporting innovation in our
nation's higher education system. With that, I'd like to yield to the
senior Democratic member of the committee, George Miller, for his
opening remarks.
______

Mr. Miller. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Good morning. We meet today to examine ways to improve
higher education. We will look at innovations from around the
country developed by states and schools alike to make college
more accessible, more affordable, and to improve retention and
completion rates. These discussions will hopefully inform our
efforts to reauthorize the Higher Education Act so that the
federal policy can promote and support innovations that benefit
students.
But there is an elephant in this room we cannot ignore.
While we like to start looking at the future, Congress has
failed students miserably in the past and we need to fix that.
One week ago interest rates for more than 7.2 million
students doubled from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. This should
have never happened. With the job market still recovering,
interest rates at a historic low, student loan debt at a record
high $1.1 trillion, we should not be asking students with the greatest need to be burdened by the highest loan cost--by higher loan cost. Because Congress has not acted, this rate will increase the cost borrowers of an additional$1,000 per student per loan on
their next loans. These borrowers are students like 28-year-old
Brandon Anderson.
Brandon had a difficult upbringing. He dropped out of high
school and lived on his own because of family issues. He joined
the Army and completed two tours of Iraq and next May he will
graduate with a bachelor's degree from Georgetown University.
Unfortunately, even while getting help from the G.I. Bill
and significant aid from his school, Brandon is set to graduate
with nearly $25,000 in student loan debt. And thanks to this Congress' inaction, Brandon will pay double the interest on next year's student loans. Brandon's loan debt has already caused him to forego his dream of owning his first home before age 30 and abandon even more immediate needs like helping out his younger sister. This Congress has not done right by Brandon and millions of other students who will graduate with mountains of debt. What the Congress has done is far from inexcusable. The House passed a Republican bill that featured a bait and switch rates that actually made college even more expensive than letting the rates double. Democrats offered a proposal that would freeze interest rates at 3.4 percent for 2 years while Congress considers a long-term, comprehensive solution to address rising college costs and affordability during the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, but our proposal was not allowed a vote on the House floor and neither was President Obama's plan. At every corner, and specifically in the Senate and the House Rules Committee, Republicans have blocked consideration of any bill that would provide debt relief to students, insisting instead that students be taxed higher interest rates to pay for the deficit. So if we want to improve access and affordability to higher education, our immediate job today as members of one institution with the power to do so should be to reverse the interest rate hike on 7.2 million college students. That is why 2 weeks ago, after efforts to stop the rate hike had clearly stalled, my colleagues and I introduced the Keep Student Loans Affordable Act of 2013. It is a 1-year stopgap measure to keep rates low while all parties work out their differences on a longer-term solution. And longer-term comprehensive solutions to rising college costs are critically needed. Those solutions will take time and effort. Congress, states, and institutions must work together to examine cost structures and ensure that we do not price students out of a higher education. The full reauthorization of HEA should promote affordability, retention, and completion. Through cost-saving measures like redesigning courses, recognizing prior learning, making better use of education technology, institutions can keep costs down to provide greater affordability for students. For example, the University of Maryland's system integrated course redesign to increase class size but continue actively engaging students in their studies. Arizona University, Western Governors University, Southern New Hampshire University, among others, are beginning to look beyond seat time to provide competency-based degrees, potentially shortening students' time to achieve a degree. And many institutions are going online to reach a broader audience and provide low-cost, high-quality education to students. These are positive steps and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today about how they are utilizing technology and other innovations on campus to reduce college cost for students. In the meantime, we can make a difference right now by acting to keep rates low for at least another year. I joined 28 other members of this committee on our side, formerly--excuse me--on June 28th--I am sorry--otherwise we have a majority, I think. Stopped your heart, didn't it? [Laughter.] I joined other members on June 28th to formally ask for a special meeting of the committee to mark up the Keep Student Loan Affordable Act but received no response. We can schedule that markup right now if a majority of this committee signs the special meeting notice. On our side all of the members have signed this notice and we only need three members from the other side of the aisle to sign this document and we can move legislation to reverse that rate hike. The petition is over here on display. Students need interest rate relief now. Congress needs to act today to reverse this increase. We cannot let the American dream become a dream permanently deferred for millions of college graduates drowning in debt. We counted on people like Brandon Anderson in Iraq and now they are counting on us. Let's get this done. I yield back my time. [The statement of Mr. Miller follows:] Prepared Statement of Hon. George Miller, Senior Democratic Member, Committee on Education and the Workforce Good morning, Chairman Kline. We meet today to examine ways to improve higher education. We will look at innovations from around the country, developed by states and schools alike, to make college more accessible and more affordable and to improve retention and completion rates. These discussions will hopefully inform our efforts to reauthorize the Higher Education Act--so that federal policy can promote and support innovations that benefit students. But there's an elephant in this room that we cannot ignore. While we'd like to start looking to the future, Congress has failed students miserably in the present. We need to fix that. One week ago, interest rates for more than 7.2 million students doubled from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. This should not have happened. With the job market still recovering, interest rates at historic lows, and student loan debt at a record high$1.1 trillion, we should
not be asking students with the greatest need to be burdened by higher
loan costs.
Because Congress has not acted, this rate increase will cost
borrowers an additional $1,000 per student, per loan. These borrowers are students like 28-year-old Brandon Anderson. Brandon had a difficult upbringing. He dropped out of high school and lived on his own because of family issues. He joined the army. He completed two tours of duty in Iraq. And next May he will graduate with a bachelor's degree from Georgetown University. Unfortunately, even while getting help from the G.I. Bill and significant aid from his school, Brandon is set to graduate with nearly$25,000 in student loan debt. And thanks to this Congress's inaction,
Brandon will pay double the interest on next year's student loans.
Brandon's loan debt has already caused him to forgo his dream of
owning his first home before age 30 and abandon even more immediate
needs like helping out his younger sister.
This Congress has not done right by Brandon and the millions of
other students who will graduate with mountains of debt. What the
Congress has done so far is inexcusable. The House passed a Republican
bill that featured bait and switch rates that actually made college
more expensive--even more expensive than letting the rates double.
Democrats offered a proposal that would freeze interest rates at
3.4 percent for two years, while Congress considers long-term,
comprehensive solutions to address rising college costs and
affordability, during the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.
But our proposal was not allowed a vote on the House floor. And
neither was President Obama's plan. The House majority even blocked a
vote on that.
At every corner, and specifically in the Senate and in the House
Rules Committee, Republicans have blocked consideration of any bill
that would provide debt relief to students, insisting instead that
students be taxed higher interest rates to pay down the deficit.
So, if we want to improve access and affordability in higher
education, our immediate job today, as members of the one institution
with the power to do so, should be to reverse the interest rate hike on
7.2 million college students.
That's why, two weeks ago, after efforts to stop the rate hike had
clearly stalled, my colleagues and I introduced the Keep Student Loans
Affordable Act of 2013. It is a one-year stop gap measure to keep rates
low while all parties work out their differences on a longer term
solution.
And longer term, comprehensive solutions to rising college costs
are critically needed. Those solutions will take time and effort.
Congress, states, and institutions must work together to examine cost
structures and ensure that we do not price students out of a higher
education.
A full reauthorization of HEA should promote affordability,
retention and completion.Through cost-saving measures like redesigning
courses, recognizing prior learning, and making better use of education
technology, institutions can keep costs down to provide greater
affordability for students.
For example, the University of Maryland system integrated course
redesign to increase class size, but continue to actively engage
students in their studies. Arizona University, Western Governors'
University, and Southern New Hampshire University, among others, are
beginning to look beyond seat time and provide competency-based
degrees--potentially shortening students' time to achieve a degree.
And, many institutions are going online to reach a broader
audience, and provide low-cost, high quality education to students.
These are positive steps and I look forward to hearing from our
witnesses today about how they are utilizing technology and other
innovations on campus to reduce costs for students.
In the meantime, we can make a difference right now by acting to
keep rates low at least another year.
I joined other members on June 28 in formally asking for a special
meeting of the committee to mark up the Keep Student Loans Affordable
We can schedule that markup right now, if a majority of the
committee signs the special meeting notice. I have that notice right
here. All Democratic members have signed. We only need three members
from the other side of the aisle to sign this document, and we can then
move legislation to reverse the rate hike.
Students need interest rate relief now and Congress needs to act
today to reverse this increase.
We cannot let the American Dream become a dream permanently
deferred for millions of college graduates drowning in debt. We counted
on people like Brandon Anderson in Iraq. Now they are counting on us.
Let's get this done.
I yield back.
______

Chairman Kline. The gentleman yields back.
Pursuant to committee rule 7(c), all committee members will
be permitted to submit written statements to be included in the
permanent hearing record. Without objection, the hearing record
will remain open for 14 days to allow statements, questions for
the record, and other extraneous material referenced during the
hearing to be submitted in the official hearing record.
It is now my pleasure to introduce our distinguished panel
of witnesses.
Mr. Scott Jenkins currently serves as the director of
external relations at Western Governors University where he
collaborates with state and federal policy leaders to expand
affordable higher education capacity through the WGU
competency-based model.
Dr. Pamela Tate is the president of the Council for Adult
and Experiential Learning, CAEL, a national non-profit
educational organization committed to expanding lifelong
Mr. Burck Smith is the CEO and founder of StraighterLine,
which provides online college course credit to students. Prior
to launching StraighterLine he cofounded Smarthinking, the
largest online tutoring provider for schools and colleges.
And Dr. Joann Boughman currently serves as the senior vice
chancellor for academic affairs at the University System of
Maryland.
Before I recognize each of you to provide your testimony I
will remind you of our lighting system. It is not actually too
complicated. It is green, yellow, and red.
When the yellow light comes on please look to winding up
your testimony. When the red light comes on try to wrap up as
expeditiously as you can.
I am loath to gavel down witnesses; we want to hear from
you. But we need to hear from all of you and my colleagues
would like the opportunity to engage in the discussion. As they
all know, I am less reluctant to drop the gavel if they go
beyond 5 minutes because everyone deserves a chance here today.
I would now like to recognize Mr. Scott Jenkins for 5
minutes.
You are recognized, sir.

STATEMENT OF SCOTT JENKINS, DIRECTOR OF EXTERNAL RELATIONS,
WESTERN GOVERNORS UNIVERSITY

Mr. Jenkins. Chairman Kline, Ranking Member Miller, members
of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify
before the committee today. I am Scott Jenkins from Western
Governors University and I appreciate the committee's interest
in considering innovations in higher education.
As the members of the committee know, our nation is facing
a crisis in higher education. The Georgetown Center on
Education and the Workforce tells us that by 2018 66 percent of
new jobs will require a college degree, and today only 40
percent of adults have completed college. This means that the
U.S. needs to produce roughly 1 million more qualified
According to McKinsey and Company, to achieve this increase
the U.S. would need to increase educational funding by $52 billion a year or increase productivity by 23 percent. We must rethink the way we look at higher education and make fundamental changes, including adopting new models like competency-based learning. Western Governors University is a nonprofit, fully online university established in 1997 by a bipartisan group of 19 U.S. governors. From the start, WGU has demonstrated that higher education can be both affordable and high-quality. WGU offers accredited bachelor's and master's degree programs in the high demand areas of business, information technology, K-12 teacher education, and health professions. Growing by over 20 percent annually, the university has over 39,000 students and 25,000 graduates in all 50 states. The university is self-sustaining on tuition alone of$6,000 for
most programs and we have not raised tuition in over 5 years.
The average age of a WGU student is 37 years old, 68 percent
work full-time, and a majority have completed some college when
they enroll at WGU.
The WGU approach to learning is unique in two important
ways, resulting in increased productivity, a higher level of
student support, and shorter times to graduation.
First, WGU uses a competency-based learning model which
measures learning rather than time. WGU enables students to
move quickly through material they already know so that they
can focus on what they still need to learn. Students advance by
successfully completing assessments that measure competencies.
This model dramatically shortens the time to degree. The
average time to complete a bachelor's degree is just under 3
years.
The second unique attribute of our model is the use of
technology to facilitate learning. Even with the improvements
in online learning platforms and resources, the majority of
online education is simply classroom education delivered
through the Internet, instructor-led, time-based, and
relatively costly.
In contrast, WGU actually uses technology to provide
interactive instruction that allows our students to learn at
their own pace. Rather than delivering lectures, our faculty,
all full-time, serve as mentors and are fully engaged in the
learning process.
We believe that WGU has demonstrated that new models of
higher education, using technology and competency-based
learning, have the potential to reduce costs and improve
quality simultaneously.
I recommend that Congress support legislation creating a
demonstration project for competency-based education similar to
the 1998 demonstration project for distance learning. This
project would allow on a selected basis waivers of current
financial aid statutes and rules that would allow innovative
colleges and universities to explore ways of delivering
education and dispersing financial aid based on learning rather
than time.
We need a regulatory environment that supports innovation.
Everyone supports the goals of innovation but new regulations
take us in the opposite direction.
those dealing with the credit hour and state authorization.
State authorization alone has cost WGU more than $1 million over the past 18 months. With regards to the credit hour, it locks in place the current lackluster productivity of higher education. If an institution like Carnegie Mellon can create a course that can educate students just as well in half the time as a traditional course they are only permitted to give half the credit for that course. We need to remove barriers that judge institutions based on seat time, credit hours, and student-faculty ratios. The myth of the credit hour as a proxy to measure learning, allocate funding, or hold students and institutions accountable must end. We have found ways to use technology to customize learning to individual needs, make college more relevant and meaningful for students, adapt to learning styles, increase productivity, and expand access, and most importantly, improve quality and affordability. It is in that spirit that I call on Congress to write a new Higher Education Act rather than amending the 1965 HEA. It is clear that neither today's education nor today's students resemble those of 50 years ago. In 1965 higher education was more elite and students were generally full-time and between the ages of 18 and 24. Only 25 percent of today's postsecondary students fit that mold. Continuing to amend and tweak this 1965 law will do little to expand opportunity, restrain tuition growth, hold institutions and states accountable, or spur institutional innovation needed to education students for an economy that also bears little resemblance to 50 years ago. Institutions like WGU and a host of emerging innovators are blazing a path forward using authentic learning of competencies as the building blocks of a postsecondary education. It is time to take these successful, innovative higher ed options out of the hot house of ad hoc agreements and waivers and plant them in a hospitable ecosystem where they can flourish for the next 50 years. I appreciate the opportunity and we look forward to working with you to advance innovation in higher education. I look forward to answering any questions you have. [The statement of Mr. Jenkins follows:] Prepared Statement of Alan Scott Jenkins, Director of External Relations, Western Governors University Chairman Kline, Ranking Member Miller, and Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify before the Committee today. I am Scott Jenkins from Western Governors University, and I appreciate the Committee's interest in considering innovations in higher education. As the members of the Committee know, our nation is facing a crisis in higher education. The Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce tells us that by 2018, 66% of new jobs will require a college degree, and today, only 40% of adults have completed college. This means that the U.S. needs to produce roughly one million more graduates per year--40% more than we are producing today--to ensure that we have the skilled workers we need. According to a report published by McKinsey and Company in November 2010, to achieve this increase in degree production at the current cost, the U.S. would need to increase educational funding by$52 billion a year or increase higher education
productivity by 23%.
We know that we cannot increase funding for higher education at
that level, so we must find ways to make higher education more
productive and affordable. Efforts to cut a few percentage points of
cost by streamlining administrative processes, reducing facility costs,
and other savings measures will not be enough. We must re-think the way
we look at higher education and make fundamental changes, including
adopting new models like competency-based learning.
In a report for the Center for American Progress, Disrupting
College, How Disruptive Innovation Can Deliver Quality and
Affordability to Postsecondary Education,'' Harvard Business School
Professor Clayton Christensen and the Center's Director of
Postsecondary Education Louis Soares discuss disruptive innovation in
higher education. The report applies the principles of disruptive
innovation--using technology and changing the business model--as an
approach to make higher education more affordable and accessible. WGU
and WGU Indiana are cited as examples of disruptive innovators in
higher education.
Western Governors University (WGU) is a nonprofit, fully online
university established in 1997 by a bi-partisan group of 19 U.S.
governors. The university's mission from the start has been to
demonstrate that higher education can be both affordable and high
quality. WGU offers accredited bachelor's and master's degree programs
in the four high-demand workforce areas of business, information
technology, K-12 teacher education, and health professions, including
nursing. Growing by over 20% annually, the university has over 39,000
students and 25,000 graduates in all 50 states and the District of
Columbia.
WGU provides high-quality education that is very affordable. The
university is self-sustaining on tuition of $6,000 per year for most of our programs, and, while other institutions are raising tuition annually, WGU has not raised tuition for five years. Today, 37 million American adults have started, but not completed, a college degree. WGU was created to meet the needs of working adults and other individuals who do not have access to more traditional higher education. The average age of WGU students is 37 years old, most of our students have families, 68% work full time, and the majority have completed some college when they enroll at WGU. In addition, 76% are classified as underserved (ethnic minority, low income, rural, or first generation to complete college). The WGU approach to learning is unique in two important ways, resulting in increased productivity, a higher level of student support, and shorter times to graduation. First, rather than simply delivering classroom instruction through the Internet, WGU uses a competency-based learning model, which measures learning rather than time. This approach allows students to earn their degrees by demonstrating their mastery of subject matter rather than spending time in class to accumulate credit hours. We know two important things about adult learners: they come to college knowing different things, and they learn at different rates. Rather than requiring all students to complete the same classes, all lasting four months, WGU has created a model that allows students to move quickly through material they already know so they can focus on what they still need to learn. Students advance by successfully completing assessments that measure competencies, such as exams, papers, and performance tasks. To pass, they must earn the equivalent of a B'' grade or better. This model dramatically shortens the time to graduation--the average time to complete a bachelor's degree is just under three years. Required competencies for each degree program are defined in collaboration with external program councils that are composed of representatives from industry and higher education. By working with these councils, we ensure that our students graduate with the knowledge and skills employers need. The second unique attribute of our model is the use of technology to facilitate learning. Technology has increased the productivity of nearly every industry except education, where it is most often an add- on cost and not used to change or improve teaching and learning. Even with the improvements in online learning platforms and resources, the majority of online education is simply classroom education delivered through the Internet, instructor-led and time-based. As a result, most online higher education is no more affordable and no better than traditional education. In contrast, WGU actually uses technology to provide interactive instruction that allows students to learn at their own pace. Rather than delivering lectures, our faculty, all full time, serve as mentors, and are fully engaged in the learning process, leading discussions, answering questions, and serving as role models for their students. WGU does not develop course content and curriculum; faculty members identify and qualify learning resources from the best third-party sources in the country. The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities accredits WGU. The WGU Teachers College, which offers initial teacher licensure as well as nationally recognized math and science education programs, has earned accreditation from the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and is on the National Center for Teacher Quality (NCTQ) Honor Roll. Our nursing programs are accredited by the Commission for Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The debate used to be whether online learning was as good as'' classroom education. That is not the right question. The question is, can technology and competency-based learning allow us to have better education at lower cost. We need to improve both quality and affordability. At WGU, we measure our success by the engagement and success of our students. Here are some key data: In the National Study of Student Engagement (NSSE), WGU consistently scores significantly above the average of all participating institutions in areas such as the level of academic challenge, relationships with faculty, and overall educational experience. The university's one-year retention rate is 79%, and 85% of our students are in good academic standing. On our most recent student satisfaction survey, 97% reported that they are satisfied with their experience and that they would recommend WGU. Approximately 65% of graduates surveyed said they had received a raise, promotion, or new job as result of their WGU degree, and 97% said they would recommend WGU. On our 2012 employer survey, 98% rated the preparation of WGU graduates as equal to or better than graduates of other universities; 55% rated it better. On the Collegiate Learning Assessment, which measures general education skills, WGU's value-added score was in the 93rd percentile of all universities participating. We do not claim that we have achieved the perfect model for higher education at WGU. But we believe we have demonstrated that new models of higher education--using technology and competency-based learning-- have the potential to reduce costs and improve quality simultaneously. As the U.S. higher education community works to increase access and affordability, I encourage the Committee and Congress to support the institutions that are disruptive innovators,'' providing quality education at a lower cost. Opponents of new models and innovative approaches to higher education can be vocal and sometimes convincing, but the best way to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of these institutions is on their educational results--that is, is it high quality, affordable and effective in meeting the needs of students and employers. Specifically, I recommend that Congress support legislation creating a Demonstration Project'' for competency-based education, similar to the 1998 demonstration project for distance learning. This project would allow, on a selected basis, waivers of current financial aid statutes and rules that would allow innovative colleges and universities to explore ways of delivering education, measuring quality, and disbursing financial aid based on learning, rather than time. This project could also help determine the specific statutory and regulatory requirements which should be altered to encourage the development of high quality, competency-based degree programs. We also need a regulatory environment that supports innovation. Everyone supports the goals of innovation, but we have seen over the past several years that rather than supporting innovation, new regulations have been enacted that take us in the opposite direction. Two of those regulations that have specifically had an adverse effect are those dealing with Credit Hour and State Authorization. Simply put, State Authorization has cost WGU more than$1,000,000 over the past 18-
months. Those precious dollars could have been spent much more
effectively on students.
With regards to the Credit Hour regulation, it perpetuates the myth
of measuring time and distributing financial aid based on time.
Specifically, it locks in place the current productivity of higher
education. If an institution like Carnegie Mellon can create a course
that can educate students just as well in half the time as a
traditional course, they are only permitted to give half the credit for
that course, even though the learning is equal or better than the
traditional course. We need to remove barriers that judge institutions
based on seat time, credit hours, and student-faculty ratios. The myth
of the credit hour as a proxy to measure learning, allocate funding, or
hold students and institutions accountable must end. It creates
perverse incentives that hinder progress and innovation. We base almost
every policy in higher education on a vague credit hour'' measure
equaling 15 clock hours of actual time in the classroom and 30 hours of
study time outside of the classroom. It's clear that we don't actually
measure this time and if we did, it would vary widely between students.
Colleges and universities should be held to a higher standard, an
unambiguous standard of actual student learning. It is vital that
Congress support new, more cost-effective models of higher education.
America needs our legislators to highlight and promote new models that
focus on outputs and ensure that future legislation and regulations
support, rather than hinder, development of new models.
It is time for higher education to fully take advantage of
technology to re-think higher education. We have found ways to use
technology to customize learning to individual needs, make college more
relevant and meaningful for students, adapt to student learning styles,
increase productivity, expand access, and, most importantly, improve
quality and affordability. It is in that spirit that I call on Congress
to write a new Higher Education Act, rather than amending the 1965 HEA,
written almost 50 years ago. It is clear that neither today's education
nor today's students resemble those of 50 years ago. In 1965, higher
education was more elite, and students were generally full-time and
between the ages 18 and 24. Only 25% of today's postsecondary students
fit that mold. The Internet and personal computers hadn't been invented
yet. Continuing to amend and tweak this 1965 law will do little to
expand opportunity, restrain tuition growth, hold institutions and
states accountable, or spur the institutional innovation needed to
educate students for an economy that also bears little resemblance to
50 years ago. Institutions like WGU, and a host of emerging innovators,
are blazing a path forward using authentic learning of competencies as
the building blocks of a postsecondary education. It is time to take
these successful innovative higher education options out of the hot
house of ad-hoc agreements and waivers, and plant them in a hospitable
ecosystem where they can flourish for the next 50 years.
I appreciate this opportunity and we look forward to working with
you to advance innovation in higher education. I look forward to
answering any questions that you may have.
______

Chairman Kline. Thank you.
Dr. Tate, you are recognized for 5 minutes.

STATEMENT OF DR. PAMELA TATE, PRESIDENT AND CEO, COUNCIL FOR

Ms. Tate. I want to thank Chairman Kline and members of the
committee for the opportunity to testify. I am Pamela Tate,
president and CEO of CAEL, the Council for Adult and
Experiential Learning. We are a national nonprofit organization
The timing is right for rapid expansion of prior learning
assessment--I will refer to it as PLA. It is a term that is
used to describe a process for evaluating adults' college-level
learning from life and work experience for college credit, and
there are various methods of doing it: college credit by
examination, credit recommendations based on non-college
program evaluation, and individualized portfolio assessment.
It has been around for a long time, but with the growing
focus on the value of postsecondary credentials and degrees and
making education more affordable, it is more important than
ever before.
One in five people in the country right now--that is over
43 million--have some college credit but no degree. They are
typically working adults. They stopped college for many
reasons, but the biggest barriers were time and money.
At the same time, the opportunities for learning have
exploded in number and variety. Adults are coming to
postsecondary ed with learning that has taken place outside our
formal institutions.
Think about all the learning that takes place in the
military, through employer training, on the job, through self-
study, volunteer work, online courses. Some of that learning is
college level and you can measure the outcomes.
So PLA is a great solution because it measures learning,
not time spent. It saves time and money for students and
employers. It keeps students from sitting through classes in
And yet, not one of our major financial aid programs
explicitly covers the cost associated with PLA. Currently, Pell
Grants and section 127, employer tuition assistance programs,
either do not allow or are unclear about whether PLA is an
allowable expense. The financial aid system is simply not
structured for a learning outcomes-based--assessment-based
approached.
CAEL conducted extensive research in 2010 and we found that
adult students with PLA credits are 2-\1/2\ times more likely
to persist to degree completion than adults without PLA
credits. We also found that it reduced the time to degree and
saved students money.
The public gets it. In a recent Lumina Gallup poll 87
percent of Americans said that students should be able to
receive college credit for knowledge and skills acquired
outside the classroom.
If this is offered according to accepted CAEL-type quality
standards, PLA is a rigorous and demanding assessment of
learning. Students have to demonstrate learning that is
equivalent to what is gained in college.
And yet, it is still not available and accessible to most
adults. We need to bring it to scale and we can no longer wait,
given the urgent need to promote affordable degrees and
completion of credentials.
Two things have to happen to put it within reach of adult
and second, supportive federal and state policies.
CAEL has been addressing the first issue by working with
hundreds of individual institutions to develop PLA programs. We
have also launched a national online PLA service called
LearningCounts.
But we have also worked with state leaders on creating
policies that support PLA statewide. We are already working in
Chairman Kline's home state of Minnesota, Colorado, Georgia,
Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania,
Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.
Here is a final example of how PLA can transform lives:
Jason Wolfe, a Navy veteran in his 30s, was able to use his
military and job training to earn college credit through
portfolio assessment for eight courses toward a bachelor's
degree in industrial manufacturing engineering. This enabled
him to avoid taking an entire year of courses in subjects he
For the millions of adult learners who could benefit from
PLA, for the employers who need a skilled workforce, and for
the taxpayers who should not be asked to pay for courses twice,
I respectfully ask that you consider including all forms of PLA
that adhere to quality standards as allowable expenses for
financial aid purposes. This change would have a real impact on
our country's ability to build a strong, educated workforce.
And in the meantime, Congress has already authorized the
Experimental Sites Initiative under the Department of
Education. This would provide a great opportunity to expand our
understanding of how PLA can improve access and success for
adult learners on a large scale.
Thank you.
[The statement of Ms. Tate follows:]

Prepared Statement of Dr. Pamela J. Tate, President and Chief Executive
Officer, Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL)

I am Pamela Tate, President and CEO of the Council for Adult and
Experiential Learning, also known as CAEL. CAEL is a national non-
learner. We work with colleges and universities on their programs and
services to adults; we connect employers, public agencies, and
postsecondary institutions to advance the education of the workforce;
we work with states, systems and consortia on solutions for
postsecondary learning and credentials; and we educate the public and
public officials on what is needed to remove the barriers to lifelong
Thank you for inviting me here today. I have been asked to provide
you with information about prior learning assessment, also known as
PLA. Some definitions may be helpful:
Prior learning is a term educators use to describe
environment. This learning may have been acquired through work
experience, employer training programs, military training or
experience, independent study, non-credit courses, volunteer or
community service, travel, or non-college courses or seminars, many of
which are offered on-line. Some of this learning is equivalent to
college-level learning.
Prior learning assessment (PLA) is the process by which an
individual's experiential and other extra-institutional learning is
assessed and evaluated for the purposes of granting college credit,
certification, or advanced standing toward further education or
training.
PLA methods have been used in U.S. colleges and universities for
more than forty years. So while PLA itself is not a new innovation, it
is a tool that is growing in importance as other innovations in higher
education have emerged.
The experiences of the students themselves tell the story. For
example:
A Navy veteran was able to use his military and job
training to earn credit not only through American Council on Education
credit recommendations, but also through a prior learning portfolio,
toward a bachelor's degree in Industrial Manufacturing Engineering. To
earn credit for a course in Safety Engineering, for example, he drew on
learning in subjects such as personal protection equipment and fire
fighting; this is learning that he had acquired in basic training and
as a Safety Observer aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt. He earned
college credit for a total of eight courses, or 24 credits, through
portfolio assessment.
from high school because she had to drop out and get a job in order to
help take care of her younger siblings. She started working as a
janitor at a transportation company as a teenager and worked her way up
to the level of middle manager, a position in which she was responsible
for managing servers and analyzing data. She got her GED in 1999, was
laid off, and a few years later started taking college classes. She
struggled through remedial coursework and progressed to taking regular
coursework, studying on and off for 11 years while also working part
time jobs. When she learned about PLA, she enrolled at a college that
accepted PLA credits. Based on what she had learned from her work
experience, she earned six credits from portfolio assessment for two
business courses and six credits through a CLEP exam. This past spring,
she graduated with a bachelor's degree in communication studies.
The timing is right for increasing student access to PLA given the
strong national focus on making college more affordable, promoting
degree completion and increasing educational attainment rates--to
support our nation's economic competitiveness. We know from the work
just released by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the
Workforce that, at the current production rate in higher education,
we will fall 5 million short of the workers with postsecondary
credentials we will need by 2020.''\i\
PLA is a proven strategy that should be considered as one important
way to support students' degree completion because it addresses two
important issues: first, PLA addresses the biggest barriers to
education for working adults, which are time and money; second, because
PLA is a critical tool for helping mobile, working adult students who
are taking advantage of the new world of higher education that is
emerging.
Addressing the barriers of time and money. One in five
U.S. adults--over 43 million people--have some college credits but no
degree.\ii\ These are typically working adults who may have left
college for a multitude of reasons but the biggest barriers are always
time and money, with the money issue leading some students to incur
high levels of debt. PLA saves students time and money because by
demonstrating what they have learned, they can receive credit for
courses in subjects they have already mastered. They do not need to
spend their time in those courses, nor do they need to pay full tuition
for those courses. They can advance to higher level courses sooner and
accumulate the credit they need for a degree or certificate more
quickly. This only makes sense: why should a student's own money or an
employer's tuition program (or, by extension, the federal government
through financial aid programs) pay full tuition for courses in
subjects that the student already knows?
Addressing the new world of higher education. PLA is also
a tool that can help students who are taking advantage of the new and
free open educational resources such as iTunesU; the new, massive open
online courses, also known as MOOCs, offered through EdX, Coursera,
Udacity and others); competency-based degree programs; and all of the
other learning opportunities available to them in this new world of
internet-based learning that is transforming higher education before
our eyes. PLA helps by enabling students to validate that learning for
college credit that can count towards a credential or degree--at a much
lower cost.
As a supporter and promoter of PLA since 1974, CAEL has seen
dramatic growth in the interest in PLA in recent years--from individual
institutions, state systems, employers and federal leaders. We are also
seeing evidence of public support for PLA. In a recent national poll
conducted by Lumina Foundation for Education and Gallup, 87 percent of
Americans responded that students should be able to receive college
credit for knowledge and skills acquired outside the classroom; and 75
percent said that they would be more likely to enroll in postsecondary
Yet PLA is still not available and accessible to all students, even
though it should be part of every program of study for any student who
need two changes: infrastructure to provide PLA at scale, and federal
and state policies--particularly federal financial aid policies--that
support PLA.
The infrastructure problem is that not every institution offers the
full range of PLA options, if at all. My organization, CAEL, has been
addressing that issue by working with individual colleges to develop
PLA programs and practices over the past several decades; by working
with state leaders on creating policies that support and encourage PLA
statewide; and by offering a national online PLA service,
LearningCounts.org, in order to bring PLA to the millions of adults
with some college but no degree, expanding the capacity of
postsecondary education.
The main policy issue is that, currently, federal financial aid
programs like Pell grants and federal loans support only traditional
time-based learning. The financial aid system under Title IV is not
structured for an outcomes-based and assessment-based approach to
postsecondary completion. It excludes assessment of prior learning
fees, even though these fees significantly reduce the student's overall
student loan debt or the amount to be covered by Pell grants or other
educational benefits.
PLA history, current practices, quality standards, and, most
importantly, evidence of its value to students in the completion of
credentials and degrees. The committee will see that PLA is a proven
and valid strategy for supporting mobile and nontraditional learners,
and that it does not make sense that our current financial aid rules
and regulations create disincentives for students to use PLA. The
financial aid system needs to change so that it covers the assessment
of learning for college credit or other measures of progress towards a
degree--with appropriate safeguards for quality assurance. This change
in policy would mean that our financial aid system would support
learning, and credential and degree completion, as its goal and not
time spent in a classroom.
CAEL has been supporting and promoting the use of PLA in
postsecondary education since the 1970s, a time when postsecondary
education began to see a surge of adult enrollment. It is probably not
a coincidence that this surge began around the same time as the initial
signing of the Higher Education Act (HEA) in 1965. The support from the
HEA and other federal programs made community colleges and need-based
financial aid available to more people than ever before, and many
Some colleges and universities welcomed adults initially because
the adult enrollments helped them meet their enrollment goals, so new
legislatures and the public on postsecondary education to become more
accountable for performance led to new approaches that assessed what
students learned rather than measuring what was taught, including
standardized tests like the College Level Examination Program (CLEP)
which the College Board had started administering in 1967; and the New
York Board of Regents' Regents External Examination Program--now called
UExcel--which had been launched in the 1970s.
With funding from the Carnegie Corporation and the Education
Foundation of America, the Educational Testing Service and the College
Board launched a three year project in 1974 to explore the following
question: Is it possible to assess, validly and reliably, learning
acquired outside the classroom for the award of college credit?'' At
the conclusion of that project (which also effectively served as the
launch of CAEL), the findings were that yes, it is possible to conduct
valid and reliable assessment of learning gained from work or life
experience, with the proviso that appropriate procedures and processes
for evaluating that learning are in place.\v\
Today's learner is, of course, very different from the learner of
the 1960s and 1970s, and the educational landscape is very different as
well.
Today's Learner. When most people think about college
students, what comes to mind is the 18-22 year old who attends college
right out of high school. Yet, that college student is, in fact, the
minority of enrollments these days. Today, students age 25 and older
now account for more than 40 percent of all undergraduate
enrollment.\vi\ Yet age is not the only differentiator when we look at
today's nontraditional students. In 2002, the National Center for
Education Statistics defined nontraditional students as those who:
Have delayed enrollment in postsecondary education beyond
the first year after high school graduation
Attend part time
Are financially independent from their parents
Work full time
Have dependents other than a spouse
Are a single parent
Have no high school diploma or GED \vii\
Analysis by the NCES found that more than half of all enrolled
students were financially independent, 73 percent had at least one of
the above characteristics, and 56 percent had two or more
characteristics. In fact, because of these remarkable statistics, there
even using the term nontraditional'' since that group is now
essentially the norm.
Student Mobility. Today's learner is also more mobile than
ever before.\viii\ It is now very common for students to earn college
credits from two or more institutions. In 2006, analysis showed that
almost 65 percent of all undergraduate students attended more than one
institution, and 26 percent attended more than two.\ix\
Changing Educational Landscape. Student mobility is no
longer just about attending more than one postsecondary education
institution. Now, mobility of learning experiences extends far beyond
the borders of what we know as traditional colleges and universities.
There have, of course, always been opportunities for people to learn
outside of the classroom. Public television has long offered
educational programs, libraries have offered free books on a range of
topics, and the workplace has given people countless ways of learning-
while-doing. In recent years, however, we have seen the number and
range of online learning opportunities explode. Colleges and
universities offer online courses, but so do new low-cost providers
like StraighterLine, no-cost providers like the Saylor Foundation, and
the new entities named earlier that are offering massive open online
courses, or MOOCs (many of the most well-known MOOCs are offered in
partnership with the nation's elite institutions such as MIT, Harvard,
and Stanford).
We are also seeing the rapid growth of other approaches to learning
such as competency-based education, which shares with PLA this
important concept: that what students know and can do is far more
important than where or how they learned it. Competency-based degree
programs work this way: the postsecondary education institution defines
a degree not in terms of the number of credit hours in various topics,
but rather in terms of the competencies that students are expected to
learning experiences, which can look like traditional courses or could
institution assesses the student's competencies. These assessments
should go beyond examining whether a student has acquired knowledge by
also requiring that students demonstrate how their learning can be
applied.
Even more so than in the 1970s, PLA is an ideal tool for today's
learner in today's educational landscape. Today's learner has acquired
learning through years of work and life experience and independent
learning opportunities online that, if demonstrated to be at the
college level, can and should count toward that learner's education.
Today's learner is also facing dramatic changes in the kinds of
learning opportunities available to them. PLA allows these learners to
get credit for what they learn, without regard for how or where they
learn it.
Current PLA Practices
PLA Methods
The amount of credit (or other recognition) students can earn for
their prior learning can be determined through several different types
of assessments. There are four generally accepted approaches to PLA:
1. Individualized assessments. In this method, students prepare a
portfolio of their learning from a variety of experiences and non-
credit learning such as online courses. Then, faculty with appropriate
subject matter expertise evaluate the student's portfolio to determine
a credit award.
2. College faculty-developed exams, also called challenge
exams,'' allow students to earn credit by taking final examinations
faculty create for courses offered at a given institution.
3. Standardized exams such as:
Advanced Placement Examination Program (AP exams)
College Level Examination Program Exams (CLEP exams)
Excelsior College Exams (UExcel)
The DANTES Subject Standardized Tests, or DSST Exams
4. Evaluated non-college programs. The National College Credit
Recommendation Service (NCCRS) and the American Council on Education
(ACE) conduct evaluations, for a fee, of training that is offered by
employers or the military. Many employers also work directly with local
postsecondary institutions to evaluate their companies' training. The
result of these evaluations is credit recommendations for anyone
successfully completing that training.
PLA and Current Practice in Postsecondary Education
Most colleges and universities have some policy in place for
awarding credit for learning that takes place elsewhere, but the
policies are rarely comprehensive and they vary widely; and few
institutions publicize--much less track--the extent to which credit for
prior learning is awarded. In addition, the National Center for
Education Statistics (NCES) does not currently collect detailed
information from institutions regarding their PLA policies and
practices. We do know anecdotally and from past survey research that
there is great variability in what institutions do offer, when they
offer PLA at all. For example, from a survey CAEL conducted of PLA-
providing institutions in 2005-2006, we know that most PLA-accepting
institutions accept course credits from AP exams and CLEP exams.
However, a different subset of institutions accepts ACE credit
recommendations, and yet another subset accepts credit through
portfolio assessment.
Some institutions--particularly those whose missions focus on the
adult learner--offer a full range of PLA options and some institutions
have made a concerted effort to fully integrate PLA into their
comprehensive approaches to serve adult learners.
Some states have established--or are working to establish--system-
wide PLA policies and practices. Both the Florida and Pennsylvania
state systems, for example, have policies that encourage PLA across all
institutions, and Tennessee has developed statewide policy
recommendations for PLA across all of its public institutions.\x\
Vermont State Colleges has taken a different approach by offering PLA
in a coordinated way among a group of institutions. These system wide
approaches to PLA are noteworthy in that they formally recognize PLA's
value and encourage its use within and across institutions. These
states have chosen PLA as an important strategy for re-engaging adults
in postsecondary education. Without this strategy, states recognize
that given the changing demographics of the workforce, they will not
have the credentialed workforce required for attracting new employers
and fostering economic development.
The Value of PLA for Adult and Mobile Students--and for Our
Nation's Economy and Competitiveness
As noted earlier in this testimony, the major impetus for promoting
PLA is the fact that the nation's economic future will depend upon an
educated workforce. Georgetown University's Center on Education and the
Workforce has noted that by 2020, 65 percent of all jobs in the economy
will require postsecondary training and education beyond high school,
and that, at current rates of production, we will be falling short of
this need by 5 million workers.\xi\ For this reason, Congress must take
this opportunity of the reauthorization of the HEA to encourage greater
postsecondary attainment and degree completion.
Prior learning assessment obviously saves students time and money
in that the students do not need to take courses in subjects they
already know. In terms of time, CAEL research of adult learners at 48
colleges and universities found that the average number of credits
earned through PLA is 17, which is equivalent to more than a semester,
or 4-6 months, for a full-time student.\xii\ This time savings can be
substantial for working learners who are attending school part time. We
know that the longer an adult remains in college, the more likely it
will be for life to get in the way'' and cause the student to drop
out or otherwise stop their progress. In terms of money, CAEL research
suggests that adult students who earn 15 credits through PLA can save
from a low of around $1,605 at a large public university to a high of around$6,000 at other institutions.\xiii\
professed that PLA can motivate students to persist in their studies
and earn their degrees. Perhaps it is motivating because the finish
line is that much closer, but there may be another factor as well.
Awarding PLA credit sends students a message that not only can they
learn at the college level, but also that they already have learned at
the college level. That can be a powerfully motivating message to hear.
There is strong evidence of a relationship between PLA credit-
earning and degree completion. In 2010, CAEL conducted a study of more
than 62,000 adult students at 48 postsecondary institutions, comparing
the outcomes of students with PLA credit to the outcomes of students
without such credit. Over a seven year period, PLA students were two
and a half times more likely to have earned a degree than students
without PLA credit (56 percent compared with 21 percent) (Figure
1).\xiv\

[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]

CAEL also examined the student academic outcomes by different
demographic groups and found similar patterns of degree completion
regardless of the student's age, gender, race/ethnicity, income level,
GPA, size of institution, and several other characteristics. These
positive findings suggest that awarding college credit for significant
extra-institutional learning is an effective way to accelerate degree
Quality Standards for PLA
Leading institutions offering PLA recognize that there is a need to
ensure that quality standards are in place for the assessment of a
student's learning that leads to the award of college credit. Many
adhere to the Ten Standards for Quality Assurance in Assessing Learning
for PLA policies and practices (some colleges know these as the CAEL
PLA Standards''). These standards were derived by Urban Whitaker from
Learning: Standards, Principles, and Procedures in 1989; the standards
were most recently revised in 2006 for a second edition of CAEL's
Assessing Learning by Morry Fiddler and Catherine Marienau.
The ten standards include five academic standards and five
1. Credit or its equivalent should be awarded only for learning,
and not for experience.
2. Assessment should be based on standards and criteria for the
level of acceptable learning that are both agreed upon and made public.
3. Assessment should be treated as an integral part of learning,
not separate from it, and should be based on an understanding of
learning processes.
4. The determination of credit awards and competence levels must be
experts.
5. Credit or other credentialing should be appropriate to the
context in which it is awarded and accepted.
6. If awards are for credit, transcript entries should clearly
describe what learning is being recognized and should be monitored to
avoid giving credit twice for the same learning.
7. Policies, procedures, and criteria applied to assessment,
including provision for appeal, should be fully disclosed and
prominently available to all parties involved in the assessment
process.
8. Fees charged for assessment should be based on the services
performed in the process and not determined by the amount of credit
awarded.
9. All personnel involved in the assessment of learning should
development for the functions they perform.
10. Assessment programs should be regularly monitored, reviewed,
evaluated, and revised as needed to reflect changes in the needs being
served, the purposes being met, and the state of the assessment arts.
These standards for quality assurance in PLA policy and practice
are followed by many institutions voluntarily in order to assure their
students and accreditors that credit is being awarded based on a
rigorous process of assessing a student's college level learning. Many
postsecondary institutions attest to following these specific standards
on their websites, while others customize the standards to their
specific institutional considerations. As noted by the Assessing
Learning authors, A conscious decision to adopt the standards--or
reject them but replace them with a different set--is the most
practical starting point for bringing the standards to life. Not
surprisingly, this conscious decision, and the discussions or debates
that come with it, provide a foundation for aligning good policies with
good practices.'' \xv\
Several of the six regional accreditors also reference the CAEL
quality standards in their own policies regarding PLA.
Why Policy Needs to Change to Support PLA
CAEL has spent much of the last 40 years promoting PLA within
postsecondary education institutions across the country. In the
process, we have come to realize that working with individual
institutions, one at a time, will not bring PLA to scale, and the
country can no longer wait given the urgent need to promote affordable
degree and credential completion. Two things need to happen to put PLA
within reach of adult learners: the availability of an on-line, large
scale PLA infrastructure, and supportive federal and state PLA policy.
Building Large Scale Infrastructure for PLA
As noted at the beginning of my testimony, the infrastructure
problem is that only rarely do institutions offer the full range of PLA
options. One way that we have been addressing that issue is by working
with individual colleges to develop PLA programs and practices, train
their leadership and staff to better understand PLA, and train their
faculty on best practices in portfolio assessment according to our
quality standards.
We are also working to build awareness among students and
employers, since many do not know about PLA or of its potential
benefits.
For institutions that have not developed their own PLA programs, or
who do not have the capacity to assess learning in all areas, CAEL
launched and now offers LearningCounts.org, an online PLA service.
whether they are good candidates for PLA and what PLA methods are
appropriate. The service also offers online courses on how to develop a
portfolio, and uses faculty assessors from throughout the U.S., trained
by CAEL, to assess students' portfolios for college credit.
LearningCounts is not intended to compete with existing PLA services at
postsecondary institutions, but rather to increase capacity where it is
needed. Some postsecondary education systems are, in fact, turning to
LearningCounts as a way to offer consistent PLA services across
multiple colleges and universities rather than building each college's
system from scratch. Examples include the Pennsylvania State System of
Higher Education and the Alamo Colleges (a community college system in
San Antonio).
Supportive Federal and State PLA Policy
Large scale PLA can be implemented more quickly by a state system
approach. Therefore, we have also been working with state leaders on
creating policies that support and encourage PLA across multiple
institutions, most notably Chairman Kline's state of Minnesota, as well
as Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota,
Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin. A few
states have already passed legislation or established state-wide
policies for PLA, and most of this activity has been in the last two
years or so.\xvi\
One of the biggest policy barriers, however, is federal financial
aid. Some methods of PLA do not cost anything for the student, but many
important ones do have reasonable fees to cover the cost of expert
faculty assessment. Currently, federal financial aid programs like Pell
grants support only traditional time-based learning. The financial aid
system is not structured for an outcomes-based and assessment-based
approach to postsecondary completion, even if those approaches have the
potential to help the student make real progress towards a degree or
credential at a lower cost. The financial aid system does not consider
as eligible educational expenses any assessment fees. Without a fresh
approach to financial aid in its treatment of PLA, adults will not have
the same incentive to have their college level learning count when it
matters the most.
Right now is the ideal time to examine what kind of changes need to
be made to the HEA in order to support PLA as an allowable expense for
federal financial aid while ensuring adherence to quality standards. A
few years ago, Congress gave the U.S. Department of Education the
authority to examine just these kinds of questions through the
experimental sites'' initiative. Testing various models for using
federal financial aid for PLA, through experimental sites, would help
to inform the changes to be considered in the future reauthorization of
the HEA.
Such a change in the HEA for Pell grants could be a model for other
federal educational benefit programs for explicitly covering PLA-
related expenses. For example, the GI Bill education benefits are
unclear as to whether veterans can take advantage of PLA through the
portfolio method. Similar clarity is also needed for workforce training
programs under the Workforce Investment Act, many of which involve
postsecondary level instruction and credentials. Further, some
employers believe there needs to be clarity on PLA as an allowable
expense for employer educational benefits in Section 127 of the tax
code. Employers are supportive of PLA and know that it can save their
employees time and money, but some are concerned about whether PLA is
allowed under Section 127.
I respectfully ask that this committee recommend to the Department
of Education the establishment of an experimental site for PLA, in
order that we might learn how best to structure financial aid coverage
of PLA. Seeing financial aid coverage for PLA in the reauthorization of
HEA would have powerful impact on our country's ability to build a
strong, educated and credentialed workforce. Thank you. I look forward
to answering any questions you may have.
endnotes
\i\ Anthony P. Carnevale, Nicole Smith, and Jeff Strohl. Recovery:
Job Growth and Education Requirements through 2020. Executive Summary
(Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Center on Education and the
Workforce, 2013), http://cew.georgetown.edu/recovery2020/ (accessed 3
July 2013), 2.
\ii\ American Community Survey, Educational Attainment, Table
S1501, 2011.
\iii\ Lumina Foundation for Education and Gallup, America's Call
for Higher Education Redesign: The 2012 Lumina Foundation Study of the
American Public's Opinion on Higher Education. (Indianapolis, IN and
Washington, D.C.: February 5, 2013), http://www.luminafoundation.org/
publications/Americas--Call--for--Higher--Education--Redesign.pdf
(accessed 3 July 2013), 8.
\iv\ Thomas Brock, Young Adults and Higher Education: Barriers
and Breakthroughs to Success,'' Transition to Adulthood, 20, no. 1
(2010), http://futureofchildren.org/publications/journals/article/
index.xml?journalid=72&articleid=523?ionid=3589 (accessed 3 July 3
2013), 111-113.
\v\ Diana Bamford-Rees, Thirty-Five Years of PLA: We've Come a
Long Way,'' in Prior Learning Portfolios: A Representative Collection,
eds. Denise M. Hart and Jerry H. Hickerson. (Chicago: CAEL, 2009).
\vi\ U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education
Statistics. Digest of Education Statistics, 2011 (NCES 2012-001),
Chapter 3, Table 200 . (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education,
2012), http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d11/tables/dt11--
200.asp?referrer=report (accessed 3 July 2013).
U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics,
2002).
\viii\ See discussion in Rebecca Klein-Collins, Amy Sherman, and
Louis Soares, Degree Completion Beyond Institutional Borders:
Responding to the New Reality of Mobile and Nontraditional Learners.
(Washington, D.C.: Center for American Progress and CAEL, 2010), http:/
degree--completion--beyond--borders.pdf (accessed 3 July 2013).
\ix\ Clifford Adelman, The Toolbox Revisited: Paths to Degree
Completion from High School through College. (Washington, D.C.: U.S.
Department of Education, 2006).
\x\ See other examples in Amy Sherman, Becky Klein-Collins, and
Iris Palmer, State Policy Approaches to Support Prior Learning
Assessment: A Resource Guide for State Leaders. (Washington, D.C.: HCM
Strategists and CAEL, 2012), http://www.cael.org/pdfs/College-
Productivity-Resource-Guide2012 (accessed 3 July 2013).
\xi\ Carnevale, Smith and Strohl, Recovery: Job Growth and
Education Requirements through 2020.
\xii\ Rebecca Klein-Collins, Underserved Students Who Earn Credit
Through Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) Have Higher Degree Completion
Rates and Shorter Time-to-Degree,'' CAEL research brief. (Chicago:
CAEL, April 2011), http://www.cael.org/pdfs/126--pla--research--brief--
1--underserved04-2011 (accessed 3 July 2013).
\xiii\ Rebecca Klein-Collins, Fueling the Race to Postsecondary
Success: A 48-Institution Study of Prior Learning Assessment and Adult
Student Outcomes (Chicago: CAEL, 2010), http://www.cael.org/pdfs/PLA--
Fueling-the-Race (accessed 3 July 2013).
\xiv\ Klein-Collins, Fueling the Race to Postsecondary Success: A
48-Institution Study of Prior Learning Assessment and Adult Student
Outcomes.
\xv\ Morry Fiddler and Catherine Marienau, The Ten Standards for
Assessing Learning, in Prior Learning Portfolios: A Representative
Collection, eds. Denise M. Hart and Jerry H. Hickerson. (Chicago: CAEL,
2009).
\xvi\ Sherman, Klein-Collins, and Palmer, State Policy Approaches
to Support Prior Learning Assessment: A Resource Guide for State
additional resources submitted for the record
Underserved Students Who Earn Credit Through Prior Learning
Assessment (PLA) Have Higher Degree Completion Rates and Shorter Time-
to-Degree,'' research brief, April 2011, accessed at the following

http://www.cael.org/pdfs/126_pla_research_brief_1_underserved04-2011

Fueling the Race to Postsecondary Success: A 48-Institution Study
of Prior Learning Assessment and Adult Student Outcomes,'' executive
summary, February 2010, accessed at the following Internet address:

http://www.cael.org/pdfs/PLA_Executive-Summary

State Policy Approaches to Support Prior Learning Assessment,'' a
resource guide for state leaders, 2012, accessed at the following

http://www.cael.org/pdfs/College-Productivity-Resource-Guide2012

______

Chairman Kline. Thank you.
Dr. Boughman, recognized.

STATEMENT OF DR. JOANN A. BOUGHMAN, SENIOR VICE CHANCELLOR FOR
ACADEMIC AFFAIRS, UNIVERSITY SYSTEM OF MARYLAND

Ms. Boughman. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I
am Dr. Joann Boughman, senior vice chancellor for academic
affairs at the University System of Maryland. I thank you for
the opportunity to share some information about how the USM and
its 12 institutions are keeping college within reach for all of
our citizens.
Our public system includes research one institutions,
comprehensives, HBCUs, and one totally online university,
putting us in an enviable position to design and test many
active board of regents and our vibrant Chancellor William
Brit'' Kirwan, USM has become a leader in many areas of
academic transformation that will enable our very diverse
student body of more than 55,000 to attain college degrees.
Recent advances in technology impacting both online and
classroom learning have demonstrated that active and
interactive strategies improve the ability of students to
built on tradition to better teach and provide flexibility to
today's population.
The path to a secure personal economic future rests with
educational attainment. Too many of our economically
disadvantaged students are not obtaining higher education
credentials.
A child born in the low--highest quartile of income has a
more than 85 percent chance of obtaining a child--college
degree, while a child born in the lowest quartile has less than
an 8 percent chance of earning a degree. The probability that
lower in the United States than most other developed countries.
This cannot continue if we are to succeed in a highly
competitive global market.
USM has been recognized by the Lumina Foundation for
creating new models of lower-cost, high-quality approaches,
redesigning bottleneck courses and two-and 4-year institutions
across the state. Redesign can shorten lecture time,
incorporate individualized learning approaches, and provide
students with ongoing feedback. Our experience has shown that
such efforts help address problems such as inconsistent
preparation amongst students that are coming to college.
Thus far, we have supported the redesign of about 70
courses with more than 20,000 students having taken those
courses. The early results in our comparisons are promising,
showing a cost savings of nearly 30 percent per course and an
increase in student success. We have now launched a major
longitudinal study to more broadly assess the impact and value
of these courses.
The USM is also investigating ways to incorporate MOOCs
into our existing courses in degree pathways. While standalone
MOOCs are increasingly prevalent, their audience is the global
market and general public, and the manner in which credit might
be given within a degree program is still unsure. Our challenge
is determining whether or not MOOCs or portions of these MOOCs
can be used to enhance the learning from a credit-bearing
course in a degree pathway.
We have also created a Center for Innovation and Excellence
in Learning and Teaching, creating a culture of higher
education innovation in Maryland. This work performed by the
USM has led the state to providing $13 million in enhancements funds, most of those going to academic innovation processes on our campuses. Efficiency in higher education is a priority for our board of regents. Our time to degree has decreased from 4.8 years to a record low of 4.3 years across all 12 institutions. The systematic reengineering of our administrative and academic functions to reduce costs while enhancing quality has received significant international and national attention. Administratively, we have removed more than$350 million in
direct costs and millions more in cost avoidance. These efforts
are a part of our ability to keep costs lower for our students.
Since 2008 our tuition has risen only 2 percent for full-
time, in-state students, compared to a national average of 27
percent. Academically, U.S. enrollment, community college
transfers, and degrees awarded are all at record highs while
time to degree is decreasing.
USM is also focused on the way we distribute financial aid.
A commission found that we were disproportionately using our
aid for merit. The board responded with a policy stipulating
that low-income students should incur debt at a rate at least
25 percent less than the average student debt. We reached that
goal in 2012 and are pleased that we continue to focus on
providing access and affordability as well as quality.
In the higher education sector we take our responsibility
of keeping college within reach very seriously and we continue
to pursue a variety of innovations that will enhance student
success while remaining firm in our conviction of access,
inclusion, and quality. Those of us in leadership positions in
higher ed must show both courage and adaptability to attain
these goals while we work to keep the U.S. higher education
system the best in the world.
Thank you very much.
[The statement of Ms. Boughman follows:]

Prepared Statement of Dr. Joann Boughman, Senior Vice Chancellor for
Academic Affairs, University System of Maryland

I am Joann Boughman, Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at
the University System of Maryland (USM). I am pleased to join you to
share some information about the manner in which the USM and its 12
institutions are meeting the challenges of keeping college within reach
for all of our citizens. Our university system includes research I
institutions, comprehensives, historically black universities, one
totally on-line university, and a specialized research institute. As
such, we are a microcosm of public higher education and in an enviable
position to design and test many types of academic transformations and
determine if focused policies can have an impact of controlling costs
and improving college completion rates for multiple types of student
populations.
With the leadership of an active Board of Regents and our vibrant
Chancellor William Brit'' Kirwan, USM has become a leader in many
areas of academic transformation and creating flexibilities that will
enhance the ability of our very diverse student population of more than
155,000 attain degrees and enhance Maryland's and the country's ability
to compete globally.
There is a confluence of developments surrounding the higher
education enterprise that make this point in our history a time when
the country must step forward and invest to maintain a leadership
position in global competitiveness.
First, there has been a major focus on completion, with emphasis in
the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
President Obama, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, the National
Governor's Association, the Gates Foundation, the Lumina Foundation and
other leaders have clearly articulated the need for America to produce
more well educated citizens, especially in areas of science and
technology, if our country does not want to lose its leadership in the
world economy.
learning and classroom instruction--have demonstrated that active and
interactive learning improves the ability of students to learn and
understand material in ways that will make integration of information
much more effective.
And advances in cognitive science are enlightening educators on
better ways to teach even as we understand more about how people learn.
diverse population, and we must gain flexibility to include the non-
traditional'' student that is now the most common in our institutions.
Our institutions must also be aware of--and open to--changes required
to accommodate the needs of our workforce as well as better
understanding what and how students expect to learn.
As we navigate this new landscape, higher education is facing two
quite sobering facts. First, the path to a secure economic future is
based on attaining a higher education credential.
Second, too many of our economically disadvantaged citizens are not
attaining those credentials. A child born in the highest quartile of
income has about an 85% chance of earning a college degree, while a
child born into the lowest quartile of income has less than an 8%
chance of earning a degree. To provide the opportunity needed to
succeed, we must focus effort to change this trend for children from
the lowest income brackets. The probability that such a child will
climb the educational ladder is lower in the United States than in
almost every other developed country. This cannot continue if we are to
succeed in the highly competitive global market.
USM was one of the original grantees in Lumina Foundation's
Making Opportunity Affordable'' initiative. USM built a partnership
with the entire Maryland higher education community, including the
Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC), the Maryland Association
of Community Colleges (MACC), and the Maryland Independent College and
University Association (MICUA) to think strategically about reducing
the costs of higher education across the board while maintaining
quality and increasing access. USM was recognized for developing best
practices by the Lumina Foundation in the key area of creating new
models: lower-cost, high-quality approaches substituted for
for serving students.'' \1\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Lumina, Four Steps to Finishing First.''
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
With support from both the Lumina Foundation and Complete College
America, USM is providing leadership to the state in redesigning
bottleneck'' undergraduate courses (e.g., general education and
developmental courses in which a large majority of students fail to
earn a C or better) at two-year and four-year institutions across the
state to improve student learning and to reduce the average cost per
course. We can then reinvest cost savings to support additional
redesign projects and other student completion-related priorities.
Since so called gatekeeper'' courses (general education courses,
developmental courses, and entry level courses--i.e., mathematics and
sciences courses for a specific major) pose significant problems for
many college students and halt their degree progression, we have
focused on bringing course redesign efforts in these areas to scale
statewide.
Redesign efforts enhance and transform these gatekeeper courses by
systematically incorporating individualized, active-learning approaches
through technology-based exercises, and providing students with ongoing
feedback to assess their progress. USM's previous experience with
course redesign has shown that such efforts help to address persistent
academic problems such as inconsistent preparation among incoming
college students; poor student retention of material; low student
engagement in lecture-based courses; and lack of coordination among
faculty members across multiple course sections, leading to course
drift'' and inconsistent student learning.
Thus far, we have supported the redesign of almost 70 courses
across the state, including enrollment of 12,000 students. Preliminary,
early results indicate an effective and efficient approach. Initial
evidence indicates no higher cost of delivery, decreases in cost in
some courses, and an increase in student success. We are launching a
major longitudinal study to more broadly assess impact and value.
Course redesign was our first large-scale implementation of
academic transformation principles, and our success in this work has
led us to explore additional innovative practices and models. The USM
is also working with Ithaka S+R, on a $1.4 million grant funded by the Gates Foundation, to investigate possible ways that some Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) provided by Coursera and the Open Learning Initiative might be incorporated into our existing university courses that are part of designed curricula leading to degrees at our institutions. While stand-alone MOOCs are becoming increasingly prevalent, the audience is the global general public and the manner in which credit might be given still remains to be studied. Our challenge is determining whether or not MOOCs, or portions of them, can be used to enhance the learning from a credit-bearing course in a degree path and help to make higher education degrees more attainable. To further advance our efforts, the USM has created a new Center for Innovation and Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CIELT) that will bring together faculty and administrative leaders from across our 12 institutions to determine ways to improve the learning of students. We will assess trends and design projects to compare new ways to deliver courses with our current processes. By analyzing results and carefully collecting qualitative data on the process, challenges and resources required, we will be able to assess costs and determine ways to make the learning process more efficient and cost effective for the students, while using the knowledge, skills and talents of our faculty to their fullest. As a result of careful documentation of successes and problems, we will be developing information about best practices in our institutions. The focus on this work, combined with support from the state and leadership from the USM and our institutions, is creating a culture of innovation involving the USM, community colleges, and private and independent colleges and universities in Maryland. The work performed by the USM institutions thus far led to the state providing$13 million
in enhancement funds. A major portion of that funding is going to
additional investments in course redesign activities and the
enhancement of academic innovation on the campuses.
For decades, college instruction has been subject to the pressures
of the Baumol Cost Disease'', as teaching a 3-credit course has taken
the same amount of time in human resources through time. Now, we have
the insight and new instructional technologies that create the real
possibility of increasing learning productivity. But as soon as we use
the term learning productivity,'' many who don't truly understand how
people learn jump to models that work to enhance productivity in other
sectors. Unfortunately, these cost/benefits models for productivity''
don't work in the education context. For example, simply broadcasting
information to more people at less cost does not result in learning per
se; if it did the Internet would have fixed everything!
So, the real scalability opportunities in higher education will not
rest simply with advances such as MOOCs, but rather with new
technologies that enhance learner transactions with each other and the
material under study and facilitate both the assessment of learning and
the ones that are more directly tied to advances in brain science, not
MOOCs * * * and they suggest a positive future for improving learning
transactions that will increasingly make us productive together'' as
truly differentiated instruction that provides them with myriad ways to
acquire content, construct knowledge, and represent their
understandings of the larger instructional conversation. These learning
environments will be inclusive both in terms of providing equitable
access as well as in terms of proactively making all learners feel like
they belong as important contributors to the discussion (there is a
significant affective component here that has been recently emerging
from the brain science as well). Learners will be engaged in
collaborative, project-oriented tasks that will expose them to multiple
perspectives and ways of thinking. Our definition of learning
success'' will shift away from our current paradigm to one that seeks
to maximize students' learning and help them achieve everything for
which they are capable. Education will become an intrinsically
motivating, self-actualizing experience for all learners, not just
the honors students.''
As this field of academic innovation is moving extremely rapidly,
we must have some patience to permit the design of comparative studies
and analysis of data that will demonstrate the best practices that will
make significant differences in student success and improvement in
efficiency and cost reduction.
State leaders in Maryland are committed to making college
accessible and affordable, and providing every opportunity for students
to succeed. Governor Martin O'Malley has clearly stated his goal that
55% of the adult Maryland population have a postsecondary degree by the
year 2025. While we in Maryland have one of the highest proportions of
adults with postsecondary degrees, we have much work ahead of us! This
year, the Maryland legislature passed a comprehensive College Readiness
and Completion Act that includes requirements for math in high school,
high school and college dual enrollment strategies, and transfer
capabilities among our community colleges and 4-year public
institutions. The statute also requires that 30 hours of general
education credit and 60 hours of credit from community colleges be
accepted by the 4-year institutions. Also required are degree plans and
the development of clear pathways for 2- and 4-year degrees, as well as
a limit on the number of credits required for a bachelor's degree. All
of these actions help focus the educational pathway, permitting
students to earn a degree more efficiently.
The quality and efficiency of higher education is a priority for
our Board of Regents. We are especially focused on enhancing that
efficiency, including the careful design and implementation of remedial
courses and improvement of success in introductory credit-bearing
courses, especially in math where many of our students have challenges.
By reducing the rates at which students drop, fail, or withdraw from
these first basic courses and ensuring fuller understanding of the
concepts and therefore higher success in subsequent courses, we can
reduce the time to degree significantly. In fact, over the last four
years our time to degree has decreased from 4.8 years to record low of
4.3 years.
As you may have heard, the USM's Effectiveness and Efficiency (E&E)
Initiative--the systematic reengineering of our administrative AND
academic functions to reduce costs while enhancing quality--has
received significant national attention and praise.
Administratively, we have removed more than $350 million in direct costs and saved millions more in cost avoidance. Academically, USM enrollment, community college transfers, and degrees awarded are all at record levels, while time-to-degree is near an all-time low. This focus on the academic side of E&E includes the careful design and implementation of remedial courses and enhancement of success in first credit-bearing courses, especially in math where many of our students have challenges. We believe these efforts are a part of our ability to keep costs lower for our students. We have also been able to control tuition rates. Since 2008, our tuition has risen only 2% for full-time, in-state students compared to a national average of 27%. Along with our E&E efforts, the USM is focused on the way we distribute financial aid. Several years ago, our Chancellor appointed a commission to study financial aid and found that we were disproportionately using our available aid on merit rather than need- based cases. As a result of the study, the Board passed a policy stipulating that low-income students, defined as Pell eligible, should incur debt at a rate at least 25% less than the average student debt. We reached that goal in 2012, and are pleased that we continue to focus on providing access and affordability to the students who are most challenged financially, many of whom are first-generation college students. In the higher education sector, we take our responsibility of keeping college within reach'' very seriously, and we will continue to pursue a variety of innovations that will enhance student success. We need to remain firm in our convictions of access, inclusion, and quality. Those of us in leadership positions in higher education much show both courage and adaptability to attain these goals. Across the nation we ALL must dedicate ourselves to improved student outcomes and greater educational success to keep America's leadership position economically. Thank you. ______ Chairman Kline. Thank you. Mr. Smith, you are recognized for 5 minutes. STATEMENT OF BURCK SMITH, CEO AND FOUNDER, STRAIGHTERLINE Mr. Smith. Thank you, Chairman Kline and members of the committee, for the opportunity to testify. My name is Burck Smith and I am the CEO and founder of StraighterLine. StraighterLine is an answer to a question that has haunted me since the mid-1990s when I was getting a master's degree in public policy. Despite massive investments in technology over the past decade, higher education prices have risen and quality has arguably fallen. In every other industry when you have these technology investments the opposite happens--ultimately, prices go down, quality goes up. What is it about higher education that bucks that trend? My conclusion was and is that the regulatory structure that we have now was not built to accommodate the realities of the online learning market. So StraighterLine offers ultra- affordable general education courses directly to students. We offer the things that everyone takes: econ 101, accounting 101, psych 101, et cetera. We have about 50 courses. We charge$99 per month, like a subscription, and then
students can buy courses for $49 or$59, but roughly $49 per course started. We also have a model which is$1,300 for a
freshman year of courses. All of these are unsubsidized.
We expect to enroll about 20,000 students in the upcoming
year and are growing rapidly but we are not allowed to be
40 regionally accredited colleges, including Western Governors,
University of Maryland University College, such that our
students are guaranteed credit when they transfer from us to
those colleges.
All of our courses have been reviewed and recommended by
the American Council on Education's Credit Recommendation
Service, among others. Over 90 percent of our students are
still enrolled after transferring to our--their destination
college after the first year. We have a wonderful case study
with Western Governors that shows these persistence effects.
Despite being unaccredited and unsubsidized, we can offer
equivalent online courses at substantially lower prices because
we do not use the profits from online courses to subsidize the
rest of the enterprise. To give you a sense of how much cheaper
online course delivery can be than face-to-face delivery,
consider what it might cost to deliver a psychology 101 course.
The content and the course management systems are
effectively cheap or very--free or very cheap; the average wage
for an adjunct professor is under $3,000. For 30 students that is about$100 per student per course. You are hard-pressed to
get about--higher than about $200 per course when you are delivering it online. However, to avoid students migrating from high-priced face- to-face courses to low-priced online courses, 93 percent of colleges price online courses the same or higher than face-to- face courses. When tuition, fees, and subsidies are added together, colleges get between$1,000 and $3,000 for this$200
course.
So this means the colleges, no matter their tax status, are
profiting from online courses and these profits subsidize the
rest of the enterprise. In most markets such margins would be
diminished as new competition entered the market. However, in
higher education, accreditation and the subsidies to which it
is tied make that very difficult.
By my what I think are conservative calculations, higher
education receives about $200 billion in taxpayer subsidies per year. These subsidies are very diverse. They come from subsidies to students through financial aid, through 529 plans, through tax credits that go to colleges, through state funds, through Department of Labor grants, nonprofit tax status. An enormous array of subsidies flow to higher education. To access any of it, colleges must be accredited. To be accredited, a college must offer a full degree program. So individual course providers like StraighterLine are not allowed to be accredited. Further, colleges are evaluated on their inputs rather than their outcomes so their cost structures must look more or less the same. The colleges have complete authority to accept or deny other people's credits, so those with whom they feel threatened, they do not have to accept credits from other providers. And lastly, accreditation is staffed and financed by colleges themselves so there is little incentive to change the model. And to put it more sharply, if a course provider like StraighterLine developed the world's greatest calculus course, a student could not access any subsidies to take our course. If they did it anyway they would have to convince the college where they are going to accept that course for credit and the college has a disincentive to do us because it wants students to take its course at its prices. When I was starting StraighterLine a frequent question was, Well, why will colleges do this at all? Why will they award credit from other providers like StraighterLine or the MOOCs or others?'' And the answer is that the economics of higher education are getting to the point where many colleges are being forced to do so. Tuition continues to rise fastest among public colleges because they have state disinvestment in addition to structural inflation. Sources of student support are falling perhaps for the first time in the last 50 years, and so whether that is Pell Grant eligibility tightening or whether that is state support that has been reduced or lower family assets, students no longer have the same support to pay a higher tuition so they are willing to look outside of accreditation to lower the overall cost of college. All this is happening in a context where there are now thousands of online providers as opposed to one or two. So colleges that want to attract online students, particularly-- and adult students, are very interested in creating these low- cost pathways, through StraighterLine or PLA or others, and they have to do so because if they don't those students are going to go to a college that will. So StraighterLine started in 2008. It was a division of my first company; we became our own company in 2010. Well before the MOOC mania we identified what I think are the two key questions in this disruption debate. One is that online courses should be much cheaper than face-to-face courses, and that second, you don't have to be a college to offer an online college course. If you offer something that is equivalent to the same standards, the treatment should be the same. So what can be done? There are a wide range of small and large policy changes. I will cover a few. One is allow accreditation at the course level rather than---- Chairman Kline. Mr. Smith, your time has expired but since I am going to be the first person to ask questions I will ask you to continue on my time. Mr. Smith. It will be quick--allow accreditation at the course rather than the degree level, create common course transfer standards such that all can be articulated equally, consolidate all subsidies into a single account. I recognize this is more controversial and radical but we have such a diverse array of subsidies to higher ed it is hard to manipulate them and control them in a way that affects the market in logical ways. With that, I will stop and open up to more questions. [The statement of Mr. Smith follows:] Prepared Statement of Burck Smith, CEO and Founder, StraighterLine, Inc. Good morning. My name is Burck Smith, and I am the CEO and founder of StraighterLine. StraighterLine is an answer to a question that has haunted me since the mid-90's when I was getting a Masters degree in public policy: Despite massive investments in technology, higher education prices are rising and quality is declining. In every other industry, technology investments yield cost savings which translate to lower prices and higher quality--productivity increases. Why not in higher education?'' My conclusion was, and is, that the problem is an outdated regulatory structure. StraighterLine offers ultra-affordable online general education college courses directly to students. The courses we offer are the ones that everyone takes in their freshman and sophomore years like Psychology 101, Accounting 101 or Precalculus. These general education courses represent about \1/3\ of all course enrollments in higher education. We charge$99 per month and, after subscribing, students pay
about $49 per course started. We also have a freshman year option for$1300--all without any taxpayer subsidies. By pricing on a subscription
basis, students have an incentive to complete the course and, if a
student doesn't complete, the financial harm to the student is low. We
and are growing rapidly, but we are not allowed to be accredited.
and for-profit regionally accredited colleges such that our students
are guaranteed credit when they transfer to one of those colleges.
All of our courses have been reviewed and recommended by the
American Council on Education's Credit Recommendation Service as well
as other third party reviewers like the College Board and the Distance
Education and Training Council (DETC), a Department of Education
recognized national accreditor. About 65% of courses started are
successfully completed. Over 90% of our students are still enrolled at
a partner college after the first year. We have a case study with
Western Governor's University describing these persistence effects.
Despite being unaccredited and unsubsidized, StraighterLine can
offer equivalent online courses at substantially lower prices because
we do not subsidize other parts of the enterprise with profits
generated from online and general education courses. Our courses are
priced much closer to the true cost of online delivery than those of
most accredited colleges. To give you a sense of how much cheaper
online course delivery is than face to face delivery, consider what it
costs to deliver an online Psychology 101 course to 30 students. The
course content and management software are free or very cheap. The
average per-course wage for an adjunct professor is under $3,000. So, the professor's labor is about$100 per student. Add additional
expenses for proctoring and management, and one is hard pressed to get
beyond about $200 per student per course. However, to avoid students migrating from high priced face to face courses to low-priced online courses, 93% of colleges price their online courses the same or higher than their face to face courses. When tuition, fees and subsidies are added together, colleges receive$1,000--$3,000 per course. So this means that colleges--no matter their tax status--are profiting from online courses. These profits are used to subsidize other parts of a college's budget. This substantial profit margin explains a number of recent trends in higher education. First, the for-profit sector was the first to realize the profitability of driving down the cost of delivery while keeping prices the same. More recently, public and non-profit colleges have turned to outsourcing'' companies that will quickly stand-up an online program for a college in exchange for 50% to 80% of the revenue from that program. In effect, colleges, rather than students, are capturing the productivity and cost-saving benefits of online course delivery. In most markets, such profit margins would decline over time as new competitors entered the market. However, in higher education, accreditation, and the public subsidies to which it is tied, make it difficult for course-level competition to emerge. By my conservative calculations, accredited colleges receive well over$200 billion of
taxpayer subsidies per year. These subsidies directly and indirectly
support students through Pell grants, subsidized loans, 529 plans, tax
credits, and colleges through state grants to public colleges,
Department of Labor grant programs and non-profit tax status. To
receive any of these subsidies, a college must be accredited. To be
accredited, a provider must offer full degrees, not individual courses.
Providers are judged on their inputs--like faculty credentials and
departments--rather than their outcomes. Colleges have complete control
over their credit recognition policies. Finally, accreditors are
staffed and financed by colleges themselves. This means that it is
difficult to disaggregate'' the college experience because the
college must be a degree bundle,'' that colleges must have similar
cost structures because their inputs must be similar, that they can
deny credit from providers that are threatening and that there is
little incentive to change the model.
To put it more sharply, if a course provider like StraighterLine
develops the world's best online calculus course, a student could not
access any taxpayer subsidies to take that course. If the student took
the course anyway, he or she must convince the college they attend to
award credit for the course. The college has a disincentive to do so
because it wants the student to take its courses at its prices. The
disincentive to unbundle'' is the same disincentive faced by record
companies as per-song downloads replaced the 10 song album or the cable
industry when faced with single channel, rather than package,
purchases. The disincentive to award credit for other people's courses
is the same disincentive that hardware and software providers have when
allowing compatibility with their products. If you lose your charger
for your iPhone, you need to pay extra for a compatible Apple charger
because they own the interface standard.
When I was starting StraighterLine, a frequent question was why
will colleges start to recognize credit from lower cost providers?''
forcing them to do so. First, tuition continues to rise, and is rising
fastest among the public colleges due to structural inflation combined
with state disinvestment. Second, for the first time since
accreditation was tied to financial aid, sources of student support are
not keeping up with tuition growth. Pell grant eligibility has been
tightened. States have cut their scholarship programs. Median family
assets are 40% less than what they were in 2007. With higher prices and
fewer sources of support, students are willing to look outside of
accreditation--essentially foregoing their subsidies--to find a lower
priced pathway to college. Lastly, with courses moving online, students
can choose from hundreds of online colleges rather than a couple of
regionally defined providers, and this doesn't include the new
unaccredited providers! While many colleges can and do resist creating
low-cost degree pathways, those colleges that compete for adult
students--particularly online students--must create low-cost pathways
to degrees. If they do not, students will choose the colleges that do.
Accordingly it is these schools that are the early adopters of low-cost
pathways to colleges, not the elite'' colleges who have more demand
than they are willing to accommodate.
StraighterLine started in 2008 as a division of my previous
company--a provider of online tutoring for colleges called
SMARTHINKING--and became its own company in 2010. Well before the MOOC-
mania, StraighterLine identified the two themes that underlie today's
higher education debates. First, online courses from all providers--
for-profit, non-profit, public--should be much cheaper than face to
face courses. Second, you don't need to be a college to offer a college
course online. If a provider can meet the standards for a college
course, shouldn't that provider be able to offer it under the same
conditions as a college? In 2008, this was heresy. Today, it seems
inevitable. Though MOOCs have captured the imagination of the media, I
prefer the equally inelegant term MCPM--Marginal Cost Pricing Model--
because that is the defining feature of disruption. The irony is that
it is forced to happen outside of the state sanctioned accreditation
and subsidization structure.
What can be done? There are a wide range of both small and large
policy changes that could enable greater competition and lower prices.
Here are some possibilities:
Allow accreditation at the course, rather than the degree
level--This could include access to all, some or none of the subsidy
streams currently enjoyed by accredited colleges. At a minimum, it
would confer the same acknowledgement of quality as enjoyed by
colleges. At a maximum, it would level the economic playing field for
all providers.
Create common course transfer standards--All providers,
accredited and unaccredited, would be able to include their courses in
such a structure. Another way to promote this would be to require any
provider who wants their courses to transfer to others to accept
transfer from others. This is similar to a GED,'' but for commonly
taken college courses.
Consolidate All Subsidies into a Lifelong Learning Account
Controlled by the Student--While more radical than other proposals,
this is the most logical given the changes in the higher education
market. The structure of the account could be adjusted to meet socially
desirable goals like greater amounts for students from low socio-
economic backgrounds, diminished availability over time,
transferability to family, and more.
Over \2/3\ of colleges already offer online courses for credit and
over \1/3\ of students have taken one. Yet, higher education has been
largely insulated from the disruptions felt in other industries.
Further, the productivity benefits that technology is supposed to bring
to consumers and taxpayers are largely absent. Though we have had
significant investment and use of new technologies, the basic business
model of higher education is propped up by taxpayer subsidies and
protected by accreditation. Without changes in the way subsidies are
delivered and to whom--clearly politically sensitive--we will continue
to lament the rise of college costs and debate the role of technology.
Burck is the CEO and founder of StraighterLine. Prior to launching
StraighterLine in 2009, he co-founded SMARTHINKING, the largest online
tutoring provider for schools and colleges in 1999. Burck has written
chapters for three books on education policy for the American
Enterprise Institute (AEI).He is a member of the American Enterprise
Institute's Higher Education Working Group. As a writer about education
Wired News, Converge Magazine, University Business and the National
School Boards Association. In the early 1990's, he wrote articles on a
variety of subjects including creating community telecommunication
telecommunications deregulation and the ability of utilities to serve
as telecommunications service providers. Burck holds a Master's Degree
in Public Policy from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of
Government and a B.A. from Williams College. Recent publications
include:

Post-secondary, Post Access''--Prepared for the American Enterprise
Institute Conference, Stretching the Higher Education
Dollar,'' August 2, 2012. Forthcoming from Harvard Educational
Press, Summer 2013.
Higher Ed Reform, from the Chapter Rethinking Accreditation,''
College 2.0, an Entrepreneurial Approach to Reforming Higher
Ed, Kauffman Foundation, June 2012
Public Policy Barriers to Post-Secondary Cost Control--Prepared for the
American Enterprise Institute (AEI) conference, Increasing
Accountability in American Higher Education,'' November 17,
2009. Published in Accountability in American Higher Education,
Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.
Price Competition and Course-Level Choice in K-12 Education: Lessons
from Higher Ed--Prepared for the American Enterprise Institute
Conference, More Than Just Schools: Rethinking the Demand for
Harvard Education Press in Customized Schooling; Beyond Whole
School Reform,'' 2011.
______

Chairman Kline. Thank you very much. I want to keep going
with you because you are on a roll here.
Despite the disincentives that you were talking about
earlier that institutions have to offer these low-cost online
courses, you have partnered with over 40 institutions and I
think your explanation was they see that if they don't there is
going to be competition elsewhere. I think that was right.
So why don't other institutions see the benefits of
collaborating with you?
Mr. Smith. Well, I think it is happening over time. It is a
slow process.
And I want to point out that the institutions with whom we
are working tend to be the most innovative ones in the field,
so UMUC, Western Governors, and that is the reason they are
here testifying. They have a commitment to low-cost pathways.
They have a history and a legacy of creating these pathways.
We are seeing more over time looking at this as they try to
attract more adult learners. We have seen a surprising number
of small, private colleges starting to work with us.
It is something that colleges have to try and come to terms
with because on the one hand they are worried that students
will migrate to low-cost courses; on the other, they want to
create this access pathway and be able to compete for these
students.
There is no easy answer but it will happen over time, I
believe. The economics is going to point it that way.
Chairman Kline. Okay, let me pick--thank you. Let me pick
up again.
You indicated that even though--I think I have got this
right--even though you have got this partnership with, in fact,
two of the institutions here, and it is costing a couple
hundred dollars a course, that often institutions are charging
as though it were a brick and mortar, on campus. So, I mean,
one of the things I thought would be happening is that
universities, whether they are large public universities or
small, private, or whatever, would be looking for ways to lower
their costs, and I think Dr. Boughman talked about a 30 percent
lower cost for an online course.
But if you are trying to lower costs it looks like they are
maybe missing an opportunity here or they are just using you as
a cash cow, I am not sure what----
Mr. Smith. There is a difference between cost and price, so
colleges can lower costs. Course redesign, as Dr. Boughman
said, is a fabulous program, and Carol Twigg, who runs it, has
been known for a long time as an innovator, but if you start to
look at what the effects of those cost reductions would be on
the price reductions, it is actually fairly minimal.
So if you save 30 percent on a course that costs $150 to deliver and that is only 5 percent of the courses across the campus, the total savings on price becomes very small. So prices don't shift as cost savings are created in higher education. So if you look at it from a technology or a productivity perspective, in other industries when new technologies come into--are employed, competition ultimately pushes those benefits to the end user, the consumer. What I think is happening in education is those cost savings are being captured by colleges because costs are being reduced for online but prices are not. Chairman Kline. Got it. Thank you. Mr. Jenkins, thank you very much for the work that you are doing and for your testimony here. The credit hour regulation;--you--in your testimony you said that it was particularly obstructive to innovation in higher education, and you did address it in your testimony but I would appreciate it if you would take the minute that I have left and talk about the benefits you and your students would see if that regulation were repealed. Mr. Jenkins. So we know two things about adult learners who come to higher education. They come to higher education knowing different things and they learn at different rates. And at WGU our model allows students to move at their own pace through that--through the process. Students are enrolled full time at the institution for 6-month terms and for 12 to 14 what we call competency units. We have had to equate those to credit hours for purposes of regulations and rules to fit into that scheme. The ability at our institution for a student who may be able to move rapidly through their degree program, they can accelerate how many courses they take. So they may take 18 to 24, be able to pass through those courses, as opposed to a credit hour regulation that would require you to take 12 to 15 credit hours and if you finish your coursework 2 months into the semester you basically sit on your hands for the rest of the semester until time ends. Chairman Kline. Thank you. Mr. Miller? Mr. Miller. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Before I begin my question I, again, Mr. Chairman, would like to beseech you to discuss among your members whether or not we can have the hearing and report out legislation to keep the rates low for the coming year so we can work on many of these issues here and the student loan program so that we will not be doubling the rates, as is currently under the situation. This affects some 500,000 students in California and about 194,000 students in your state, and I would hope that we could work out a bipartisan bill. We have seen in all of the machinations between the House and the Senate a common core that could lead to that legislation a more permanent fix, and so I would hope that we could do that. Thank you for assembling this panel of witnesses. This is sort of the core of the question of how do we make it more affordable and how do we deal with cost. I would like to start just for a second on the credit hour, but I just want to say, our problem is, you know, we legislate for the nation, and just as we see across the higher education, we--there are a lot of flimflam artists out there and they are taking federal subsidies, they are taking federal money. People are going into debt and the courses they are taking aren't worth spit to an employer or to another college in terms of transferability or acceptance of those. And we have to sort that out. I am a big fan of everything you are talking about doing here and I see seat time, credit hour, all of that is sort of standing in the way. But you also have to be prepared to accept there has to be some ability to separate the wheat from the chaff here because it is really expensive to students to go into debt and not get an education. That is real expensive. And so how we do that I think is a challenge here and I don't come necessarily with preconceived notions, but on the question of prior learning and your low-cost, as you say, history 101, economics 101 courses, how does that merge sort of when you get to the University of Maryland, because you have sort of two different institutions looking at this and you have students who are coming there probably for the most part with the traditional mindset, and that there is this array of offerings here that turn out to be really important to them but they haven't been told about them or thought about them as they graduate from high school or come to college later in life. Ms. Boughman. Well, Mr. Miller, you have touched on one of the things and that is preparation of the students not only with content but with understanding of the process of higher education. In our universities, equivalency of courses is the essence of transferability into and credit for a course in a curriculum that leads to a degree, and that is where one of the differences is in some of the institutions that are simply giving courses versus a series of courses that leads to a degree. And the 30 percent number, Mr. Chairman, that I pointed out is not just for online courses. This is a 30 percent cost reduction in courses in some of these innovative processes, some of it based on prior learning assessment, as well, that leads to success in that course and subsequent success in other courses so that the cost comes down both for students and the institution because the professors aren't teaching the same student twice. They aren't withdrawing because they are too challenged; they aren't getting an unsavory mark or grade in their course. Mr. Miller. Let me just ask Dr. Tate, how do you then design that prior learning assessment? You have somebody coming out of the military. Let's say they are in the warehouse. They are doing logistics for the military; they are moving equipment. How do you design that assessment so that that then shifts into the pursuits that the student wants to do when they return to the university? Ms. Tate. Mr. Miller, CAEL does share this concern about protecting against fraud or abuse or the flimflam artists that you discussed, and there are some abuses in postsecondary education generally, not just in these innovation areas. And so I think there are various ways that we can help to reduce or at least mitigate the issue of abuse. One is, I think, first of all, having really clear, visible standards for the assessment of that learning. That is number one. We published a quality assurance standards guide for colleges and universities about accepting such credits from other entities or through prior learning assessment, and a lot of institutions use those now. And I would say, in fact, just an aside here, in fact, we are in the early stages of exploring just such a group of possible models for mitigating fraud or abuse with the Veterans Administration, since you mentioned the military. Mr. Miller. Mr. Smith, do you have to do the same in terms of--how do you--what did you--assurances did you have to make to convince the University of Maryland and Western Governors that they should be accepting your courses? Mr. Smith. So we did a number of things. First, our challenge was, when we started, there was no way to--that an unaccredited provider could show validity of their courses, so we looked to the ACE Credit Recommendation Service 4 or 5 years ago, and I think we are one of the first to--I mean, they have been around since the 1970s, I believe, but one of the first to use it for general education courses because we needed something to give us third party validity. So we had all our courses reviewed by them and recommended. We have added other kind of good housekeeping seals of approval. We have had the College Board review our courses for A.P. applicability for some of them. We have had the Distance Education and Training Council, which is a DOE-recognized national accreditor, look at our courses. And then on top of that, we are extremely transparent. So UMUC, Western Governors, all of our partner colleges have complete authority to go look at our courses, slice, dice, do whatever they want to with them. And on top of all of that, they can now track what our students are doing and where they are going and how they persist. So there is a lot--we have had, I would say, many ways we have had more course level review than most colleges, and this is an interesting point in that accreditors don't look at courses. So despite all the courses that are being transferred among colleges, and a third of all students transfer--that is a 3-year-old number; it is probably higher now--does not include all the other sources of credit that come from high schools, or PLA, or the military, or elsewhere, courses are never looked at. So the---- Chairman Kline. Sorry, but again the gentleman's time has expired. Mr. Petri? Mr. Petri. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for conducting this very important hearing. And thank the witnesses for their contribution. I have a question really that I would hope each of you could respond to, and with the 5-minute rule I am not sure there will be time to accomplish that very effectively, but if you could consider submitting a written response in addition it would be very much appreciated. You touched on it in--the answer to my question, in your testimony but I just wanted to focus in on it. We have seen technology transforming almost every industry in the United States and transforming our world, and it is moving forward in the education community but it is moving forward, or has in the past moved forward more slowly in the world of education, particularly higher education, than in a lot of other industries. And so what I am--my question is, what do you see as the largest barriers to the deployment of innovation and new technology in the field of education? And I don't mind if you point at us, but--because maybe we will change a few things. Could you respond in a minute or 2 each? Mr. Jenkins. Here is the thing: I think there are issues around culture and there are issues around governmental regulation and accreditation issues that impair the ability of technology to be deployed in institutions, but I also think that institutions in a lot of ways WGU was created to use technology in order to deliver a high-quality, affordable education that is fundamentally different. Our faculty role at WGU is fundamentally different than at a traditional institution, where we--if you enroll at WGU you are teamed up with an individual mentor who has experience in the field and they help facilitate your learning through the entire course of study. If you hit a roadblock then you're triaged to a course mentor who is a subject matter expert and they work one-on-one with you to help you get through that process. You notice in all of that I don't have a faculty member standing in front of a lecture hall or a taped lecture from a faculty member. And then we assure the student has earned the competency and has mastery of the competency because we then have a third party that reviews their assessments and their performance assessments and it helps to make sure that students move through. And technology enables all of that process, which is very difficult sometimes in a traditional institution. Ms. Tate. You know, I would add to that that in our experience, some of the biggest barriers that institutions have to the deployment of technology are A, they don't have the technology resources and they don't have the infrastructure in place to really understand how to implement online learning or online services. So for example, just take prior learning assessment itself. Most colleges that do do this still do it in the kind of face-to-face, labor intensive way that they have done it in the past, as they do teaching and learning in general. To introduce online solutions that require technology took--and we have made that investment with Foundation HELP--it took enormous resources to convert a process to an online, high-quality process. And I think the same is true for online learning or online services. They take a lot of thought; they take design. It is something that really is an investment by the institution. And many of them don't have the know-how or the resources to do it, and so what is happening is all--many, many private vendors who do have that knowledge and expertise are coming to the table to try to assist higher education in making this change. Ms. Boughman. Mr. Petri, I would suggest that technology in higher education goes far beyond simply moving certain courses to online delivery. And in fact, higher education courses are incorporating technology in many, many ways in many of the sciences using modeling, for example, in the engineering sciences or even in the biological and biochemical sciences-- molecular modeling, for example. But I would also suggest that barriers are not the only reason that technology has not been fully embraced. Tradition can be a good thing as well as sometimes a hindrance, and there are many people who, in fact, see small classroom interaction, professor-driven conversation as a very important part of the learning process. And we also have to remember that we are talking about very diverse populations here. I envy, in fact, some of the organizations that have 37-year-old, mature students as their key student when, in fact, most of our students in the ages of 18 to 25 or so are not nearly so mature to be able to guide their own learning process. Chairman Kline. Gentleman's time has expired. Mr. Andrews? Mr. Andrews. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thousands of American families are trying to re-up their student loans for the new academic year and finding out, to their horror that the rates have doubled. It is going to cost them thousands of dollars more. A bill that Mr. Courtney introduced on April 17th that would put off that rate increase for 2 years, would not add a penny to the deficit. We can get a vote on that bill if three more members of this committee sign a petition calling for a vote on that bill. The petition, which is depicted to my right, has the signature of every Democratic member of the committee. I would implore my friends on the Republican side to consider signing this petition. If three of them do we can take a vote on this bill. Mr. Smith, you can sign the petition, too, if you would like, Mr. Smith, but the--I notice in your testimony you say that you are not allowed to be accredited. I think I know the reason for that but why is that? Why can't you get accredited? Mr. Smith. So first, I am not going to sign the petition. Mr. Andrews. Okay. Mr. Smith. I will let you all navigate that yourselves. But---- Mr. Andrews. Your time is up, Mr. Smith. [Laughter.] To be accredited you must offer a degree. You must offer a full degree, and usually multiple degrees. So we are not offering degrees, we are just offering courses. And so the disconnect for me is that you see courses being offered and credit is fungible for---- Mr. Andrews. Your argument, which I think is pretty compelling, is that there is a sort of de facto accreditation that goes on because the schools with whom you have articulation agreements would not accept the courses if it didn't meet their standards and they are accredited, right? Is that essentially our argument? Mr. Smith. Yes. That is the pathway we have created for credit. Mr. Andrews. Do you think that the accreditation process should be broadened to include accreditation of those who do not offer degrees but offer courses instead? You think that would be a good thing or a bad thing? Mr. Smith. I think it would be a good thing. I think you are already seeing the accredited providers offering courses that are fungible and transferable among others but you have not seen the course level price competition that should come about, so---- Mr. Andrews. And so your position would be that such an accreditation expansion would induce more competition among providers and therefore lower costs and hopefully improve quality, as well. Is that fair to say? Mr. Smith. Correct. Mr. Andrews. Yes. What do you think the elements of such a course accreditation would include? What would be a fair way to do that? Mr. Smith. There are several possibilities. One is there-- the ACE Credit Recommendation Service, for instance, already has a process in place that is recommending courses for credit. There are others. There is a--the National College Credit Recommendation Service, based in New York, is another one where they are doing holistic measurement of--or holistic evaluation of courses, just like an accreditor would. There is another option, which would be to look to generalized standards across--call it maybe it is sort of a GED for college, for instance, where it could be an option for those general education credits. Those are two options. Mr. Andrews. To what extent do you think that such a process should get into the qualifications of the teacher? Tell you, one of the things that worries me about not just online learning but learning across the spectrum now in higher ed is I saw in one of the witnesses talked about a$3,000 stipend for
an adjunct teacher. Wow. That is a really minimal amount of
money and I will be if you cost it out on an hour-by-hour basis
it is not much higher than the minimum wage for the hours
instructors put in.
I am not asking if you think the $3,000 is a fair price because the market is determining that, but do you think there should be some standards for the faculty members offering these courses if we did it on a course-by-course basis? Mr. Smith. There should certainly be some standards. What they are is open to debate. There are not much standards in the area of teaching effectiveness currently. Mr. Andrews. Yes. Mr. Smith. The standards we currently use are about the subject, not matter---- Mr. Andrews. Let me throw that to the other three witnesses, too, that not just in the online space, but do you think there should be some standards for teaching across the board? Ms. Boughman. Standards per se, sir, I think are--would be difficult to impose in our system of higher education because the university faculty, the department, and the school are the ones that hire the faculty. They would be evaluating the individual professor and their credentials in order to teach certain---- Mr. Andrews. The reason I ask this question is I think most of us have had this experience that we have encountered a brilliant professor in the course of our studies--I will name them later if you would like--who can't teach at all. And the person is just a master at biology or calculus or history but really can't communicate with students. And, you know, it strikes me that in my local public school district every person in a classroom has to pass some kind of standard of competence, but when I send my daughter to a university I won't name here at a huge price, the people teaching her didn't necessarily pass any standard. I sometimes think we should--my time is up. Chairman Kline. Thank the gentleman---- Mr. Andrews. I will name the university later. Chairman Kline. We can hardly wait. Dr. Foxx? Ms. Foxx. Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. And I want to thank the members of this panel for being with us today. I think this is a very, very important issue that we are dealing with here and I appreciate the good work of the staff, too, in putting all of this together. I think you all have brought out some really important points I wanted to comment on and I think Mr. Andrews' comment just now is very revealing in many ways. There are a lot of people teaching at the university level who aren't very good teachers and probably ought not to be in a classroom; they ought to be doing something else. They are probably very talented in those areas. But we don't have standards for that, and yet we hold our public schools, the elementary and secondary teachers, to very high standards. The point that was brought up about courses are never looked at in accreditation I think is extremely important that has been brought up, but I would say that in terms of what Mr. Smith does, any dean or assistant dean can approve any course from any place or any credits for students for credit. And so it is getting done even though it is not a part of the accreditation process. And Mr. Miller pointed out that there are questions about flimflam people out there. Well, I want to say that some of our traditional institutions may be guilty of flimflam too because they do not certify competencies in any way whatsoever in terms of what students are learning. We just don't have any way to do that now, so I think you have brought out some really important points. I do have a question, Mr. Jenkins. Can you explain why the state authorization regulation cost Western Governors University so much since it was promulgated, and how could you have spent that money better? What positive benefits would you see if the regulation were repealed? Mr. Jenkins. So as that regulation passed states began to build up a bureaucratic superstructure in order to implement and in most states you have a proprietary bureaucracy that approves institutions that are from out of state or for profit, and in typical case those are the folks that tend to approve WGU as an online institution that has no physical presence in the state. And so there are costs associated with that, and a lot of times those as part of that regulatory structure the bureaucracy raised the cost to cover the cost of reviewing the institutions. So in states like Tennessee it is about$100,000
to be approved; in Massachusetts it is a substantial cost in
addition to a full program review of the institution.
Where those resources--a million dollars at our institution
basically would be back into finding quality resources for
students that help teach them competencies. It would go back
into student success because that is our primary mission.
Ms. Foxx. Thank you very much.
Dr. Tate, you argue that opening up federal financial aid
to prior learning assessment will allow more students to take
this point? What structure would you suggest be put in place to
ensure the quality of the PLA to protect waste, fraud, and
abuse of taxpayer dollars?
Ms. Tate. Yes, I would suggest that first there be a more
careful review of prior learning assessment programs within
colleges and universities when accreditors are visiting them or
questioning them. Right now the accreditation is at the
institutional level and there is not as much attention to
individual programs.
CAEL has been asked by several of the regional accreditors
to institute some kind of a review of prior learning assessment
programs prior to accreditation visits for that very reason,
because the programs are not looked at in any detail by
accreditors now. So in addition, as I mentioned, the quality
standards for prior learning assessment--there are standards,
they can be looked at, they could be--it could be done through
either self attestation by the institution with survey
questions responded to or it could be site visits on the part
of entities like us or regional accreditors.
There are a variety of ways, also, to deal with abuse--
potential abuse by students in the PLA process because it is--
it requires a lot of documentation of learning that the
student--it would be very hard, in other words, to fraudulently
claim credit for prior learning because you have to demonstrate
it in so many ways.
So I think that there are a variety of possibilities that
we are exploring with the Veterans Administration and others to
do exactly what you are asking.
Mr. Grijalva, you are recognized.
Mr. Grijalva. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And for the gentlelady that just spoke, I would like to
tell my friend that if--point out that in the state of Arizona
450,000--over 450,000 students are on some sort of federal
subsidized loan. In the state of North Carolina 160,000--over.
And if we don't act and I urge her to sign the petition to
allow H.R. 2574, Keep Student Loans Affordable Act of 2013 in
Arizona for the life of that loan it goes up over $1,000. In North Carolina for those students it goes up for the life of the loan--$980,000.
So I would urge my friend, the gentlewoman from North
Carolina, to sign the petition and--so that we can rapidly and
decisively act on behalf of millions and millions of college
students right now that are just going to see the cost
escalate.
Let me ask Ms. Boughman, you said that--you mentioned that
the 85 percentile success for the highest-income success and 8
percent for the lower-income. Do you think that by allowing
these student interest rates that I just mentioned to double
this will be attainable for those students in that 8
percentile? And the second, and what suggestions would you have
for this committee to deal with these, regarding the doubling
of student interest rate for subsidized loan?
Ms. Boughman. Thank you very much, sir. I think that it
is--the climb to attain a college degree is going to get even
tougher for those students coming out of the lower income
brackets. The disadvantaged students that we have, especially
those students who are first generation students in their
family, have a complex set of issues to deal with around both
financial aid and with their college degree.
And this is a concern that we have across all of our
students in trying to make sure they have the right information
about taking courses or degree programs that will get them
where they want to be in a reasonable amount of time. Hit and
miss education will not help solve the problem even if it is
inexpensive.
Mr. Grijalva. Thank you.
Dr. Tate, like you, I am a strong proponent of adult
education. I think in your testimony there are very good points
PLA has a strong emphasis on barriers to education for
working adults. The issue of time and money--is very important.
Can you give us some--can you give us your opinion, insight
as--what do you think Congress needs to do to make college
affordable, quickly, and then do you think--same question that
I just asked--the student interest rates doubling up would
impact education and particularly returning adults that are
coming for--to finish or to begin their education process?
Ms. Tate. Yes, sir. I do believe that our data would show
that the most underserved students would be damaged the most by
a doubling of these interest rates. And I think there are a
variety of ways, in addition to keeping the interest rates
low--lower that could benefit adult learners.
One would be to have them take advantage of some of these
reduced cost degrees that you are hearing about--degrees based
on competence, prior learning, online or a blended model, a
whole variety of ways that give them a chance to accelerate
their progress.
And prior learning itself is a very big way to help college
be more affordable because it costs probably a third to a half
as much to assess a person's learning for a college course
credit than it does to take it. So if they have the learning,
why should they pay two or three times more to take the course
again?
So we have a lot of studies that show that. For underserved
populations it is a key strategy.
Mr. Grijalva. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins, you mentioned the Georgetown study that talked
Chairman Kline. I am sorry. The gentleman's time has
expired.
Mr. Walberg, you are recognized.
Mr. Walberg. I thank the chairman. And, Mr. Chairman, I
just want to notify you, I am considering offering a petition
for signing that would encourage our Senate colleagues to
respond to what we did a month ahead of the date of the
expansion of the student loans, following also the pattern of
the President to call for a long-term, market-based approach,
which we did here in the House, as you know. I will keep you
informed about my thoughts on starting that petition.
But we are at a different subject today of great
importance.
Mr. Jenkins, it is good to see you again. We spent some
interesting and challenging years in the state legislature
working--you for the governor and I for the people on education
issues, and thankfully we were on the same side on those
issues. [Laughter.]
But in your experience working for Michigan's Department of
Education you must be familiar with our state's needs of
creating avenues to provide an older workforce in need of
continuing or completing their education to fill current needed
job demand positions. How might a competency-based learning
model like the one established by WGU help Michiganians meet
their educational needs while keeping costs in check, which is
an important factor?
Mr. Jenkins. That is a great question. Right now in
Michigan about 1.4 Michiganders have some college but no
degree, so they started college and then never finished--life
got in the way. What WGU and institutions like ours offer are
degrees that are in high workforce demand, so your bachelor's
and master's degrees in information technology, business,
teacher preparation, and health care, including nursing.
And so at $6,000 per year a student can move at their own pace and the education that they have received in the past is not lost, so that they start from where they start and they don't have to go back and retake a series of courses. We also have multiple articulation agreements in Michigan that help students who already have their associate's degree to continue on into WGU and complete their degree. Mr. Walberg. So nothing is lost in the past, as it were. You can build upon it. Mr. Jenkins. Correct. Correct. We can recapture that through them being able to assess and work with our faculty to ensure that they meet those competencies that they have already had and then move forward without--at low cost. Mr. Walberg. Okay. In your testimony, Mr. Jenkins, you also stated that we need a regulatory environment that supports innovation. In your opinion, how is the federal government getting in the way of innovation? Mr. Jenkins. So another great question. I mentioned a few of those areas but I think there is also an issue of--in some cases we don't know what we don't know, of where innovation might occur if regulations weren't in place. And so that is why WGU has been involved in encouraging Congress to support a demonstration project around competency-based education---- Mr. Walberg. Allowing creativity without unnecessary regulation. Mr. Jenkins. Exactly. And then providing a report back to Congress within 12 months to show where areas--and--where barriers exist for institutions that are trying to be innovative. And we would hope that Congress could support a demonstration project like that, like the demonstration project on distance learning a decade ago or back in 1998 that provided open avenues to create UMUC and WGU and other types of institutions that are doing online work today. Mr. Walberg. Almost like the creativity of capitalism. Let me move on. Dr. Tate, can you give me some idea of how much money could be saved for the average student that is able to take advantage of PLA? Ms. Tate. Yes, I can. Mr. Walberg. Cut to the bottom line there. Ms. Tate. Yes. Okay. Well, we did some preliminary analysis and we found that if an average student in our search saves or earns, I would say, 15 credits through prior learning assessment, they can save from a low of around$1,605 at a
large, public university to a high of around $6,000 at other institutions by simply earning 15 credits, and the average in our national study that people earned was 17 credits through prior learning assessment. So in the research briefs I sent you I did cover that point and I do want to add that we also did an informal analysis of cost savings and applied it to the Pell Grant program. We said if 10 percent of Pell Grant students were to use prior learning assessment and if they got 15 credit hours through prior learning assessment then we would be able to save the Pell Grant program at public 2-year institutions$85 million a year
and at 4-year public institutions the Pell Grant savings would
be $466 million a year. Mr. Walberg. Savings not to the Pell Grant program but to the taxpayer. Ms. Tate. Yes. Exactly--to the taxpayer. Chairman Kline. The gentleman's time has expired. Mr. Walberg. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Chairman Kline. Mr. Bishop? Mr. Bishop. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, I--let me just start by urging that we move as a committee on H.R. 2574. I think we all agree--there is broad agreement that we want a market-based rate but I also think we have to recognize that we are not going to arrive at that agreement on a market-based rate in the 3 legislative weeks that we have left and students are going to be signing their loan promissory notes while we are in recess and so we need to lock in place a rate that will be more supportive of their aspirations, and that is the 3.4 percent rate that we have had for the last several years. And I hope my colleagues will join us in moving that legislation. I want to go to an issue that has really, I think, become more controversial than it needs to be and it has been characterized in a way that I think, frankly, is not supported by the facts, and that is the definition of a credit hour. The chairman described the credit hour in his opening statement as--the definition--the federal definition of a credit hour as stifling innovation. Let me just read to you guidance from the Department of Ed. This is from the Department of Ed: A credit hour for federal purposes is an institutionally established equivalency--institutionally established equivalency--that reasonably approximates some minimum amount of student work reflective of the amount of work expected in a Carnegie Unit. Hardly a one-size-fits-all definition. Let me also offer another guidance from the Department of Ed with respect to seat time. There is no seat time requirement implicit in the definition of a credit hour. An institution that is offering asynchronous online courses would need to determine the amount of work expected in each online course in order to achieve the course objectives. Now, I would assume that a course objective is some level of competency based on some body of knowledge. And so my question is how does such a loosely worded, broadly defined definition of a credit hour, how can it reasonably be determined as stifling innovation? And, Mr. Jenkins, your institution is one that I really want to learn more about, but you have 39,000 students. That is pretty good, wouldn't you say? I mean, and you have done so-- you have built an enrollment of 39,000 students within a model that you have been able to fit into this federal definition of a credit hour, am I right? So if I am right I can assume that you have made judgments that constitute institutionally determined equivalencies. Am I right about that? Mr. Jenkins. I am sorry. I missed your last sentence. Mr. Bishop. Okay. You have constructed a method of course delivery that works for your students. You have done so within, presumably, this broad definition of what constitutes a credit hour. So I can only assume that your ability to do so is because you have exercised the determination of institutionally determined equivalence for course objectives and the determination of credit time versus competency. Am I right about that? Mr. Jenkins. Correct, in that way. But the distinction is that at WGU you don't enroll by and--you enroll--you have to-- you take tests but you enroll in a course of study. Every single student goes through the same series of competencies. You don't have a multiple set of competencies. Mr. Bishop. Okay. But your students do receive some form of financial aid. Is that correct? I mean, they are they Pell eligible? Mr. Jenkins. Yes, sir. Mr. Bishop. Okay. So you have been able to take your model and craft it in a way that comports with the federal definition of a credit hour and the generally accepted definition of 12 hours is full time and so on. Am I right about that? Mr. Jenkins. Correct. And we are the only institution that does competency-based education as Title IV eligible at scale in the country today. Mr. Bishop. But my point is you have been able to do it. Correct? Mr. Jenkins. We have been able to do it and no one else has. Mr. Bishop. So therefore, for you, given the innovation that you brought to the table, given the--you know, the willingness of your faculty to pursue new models of education, the existence of federal regulation has not been an impediment. You have 39,000 students. That is pretty good enrollment. Mr. Jenkins. We were designed by governors and part of our role was to expand the idea of competency-based education and grow that in the states and provide affordable capacity. We would like to see more innovations around the country. Mr. Bishop. I think you are agreeing with me. Let me go to the issue--to Dr. Tate and the issue of prior learning experience, and I only have a very little bit of time left. Chairman Kline. I am sorry. The gentleman's time has expired. Mr. Bishop. I guess I have no time left. Chairman Kline. Dr. Bucshon? Mr. Bucshon. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to focus on something that is a concern of mine, personal experience. And when I went to college in 1980, based on really my inferior grade school and high school education, I would say, at the time, when I took my entrance exam for University of Illinois they made me repeat algebra and geometry even though I had had that in school and I was good at math. So I see some opportunity here for at least, you know, with what you are doing, Mr. Smith and Mr. Jenkins and others, for this type of coursework it is very expensive, you know, to go to college and find out that you have to spend a semester or maybe even two basically catching up and then realizing that you can't graduate in 4 years. Maybe you can comment on that, Mr. Smith. You know, I could see even opportunity for bricks and mortar institutions like University of Illinois or University of Maryland making it much cheaper if you do have to take remedial courses, whether it is online or whether it is bricks and mortar. Start with Mr. Smith and comment on that. Mr. Smith. Yes. I think that is one of the greatest potentials of online learning is lower cost essentially failure. So we assume that failure is bad, and in our current higher education structure it is. But it really is expensive failure is bad, so students who don't do well, if it is cheap it is actually not--the liability isn't that great. So for us, we get a lot of students who come through and because we charge on a subscription, students--particularly adult students--if they have bit off more than they can chew, their health care goes awry, child care, whatever it is, and they decide they can't complete, if they stop after the first month they are out$150. As opposed to starting at a community
college and then being several months in and then having
several thousand dollars in debt by the time you get there.
So I think there are a lot of ways to start as a first line
of defense, really, to offer these courses very affordably,
either through some of the free courses or through us, and then
progress into an institution after that. It won't be the
solution for everybody. There will be certainly students who
need more support than that, but it is a first line of defense
and then you can iterate after that.
Mr. Bucshon. Mr. Jenkins, do you have anything to add on
that?
The subject about cheap--having--if you are a student--and
a lot of our students have to take remedial classes when they
graduate from school--we are working on that side of the issue
also, of course--that should it be cheaper, even online or at
bricks and mortar institutions? If you are that student should
you be able to get that remedial study much cheaper than you
would if you are not--you know, if you are from a school system
where you maybe were better prepared?
Mr. Jenkins. Right. Absolutely. It is a great observation
in the fact that a lot of students do come underprepared to
postsecondary education.
At our institution we are mostly dealing with students who
are adult learners who by and large may have had those skills
but they have faded over time. Math is a skill that tends to
expire. And we have built up kind of intermediate courses for
students that help them to get to that point but that are
college credit bearing.
Outside of my role I also work with states on everything
from dual credit to dual enrollment, and a lot of states are
looking at assessing students early in their junior year so
that they can take a dual credit opportunity through their
local university or through Ivy Tech or something like that
where they could--where they could gain those credits, and they
are doing it in an online way that is pretty innovative.
Mr. Bucshon. Great.
Ms. Boughman. I would suggest that remediation or
developmental learning is a real challenge for us, and in
Maryland we are working very closely with our K-12 partners in
order to better prepare our students for their college years.
And we are looking very closely at all kinds of ways, from dual
enrollment to block transfer of credits for general education--
30 hours of credits from the community colleges and now, in
fact, all of our public institutions accept 60 credit hours
from our community colleges. And in fact, transfer is a very
good way, and the community colleges tend to be even better
prepared to help those students in remediation in the 4-year
institutions.
Ms. Tate. Just want to add that though those efforts are
the fact that developmental education is a--in many cases a
trap for students. They get into developmental ed, they use up
their financial aid on these low-level courses, and then they
have no financial aid remaining to actually take their
programs. We have not solved this problem in higher education.
There are a number of alternative things that can be done
that would--that I think would make it more possible for people
to be successful. This does not in any way devalue some of the
innovations that are going on there, but it is an enormous
problem for community colleges in particular and has not been
solved.
Chairman Kline. The gentleman's time----
Mr. Bucshon. Thank you.
Chairman Kline [continuing]. Has expired.
Mr. Sablan?
Mr. Sablan. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Good morning, everyone.
I represent probably one of the poorest districts in
America, where I know I am aware that 80 percent of our college
students at our local community college have a student loan of
one sort or another, and so--which is why increasing the
interest rate on a student loan is just as important, it is
truly important to me as it is probably for the gentleman who
just spoke, where in his state of Indiana 291,000 students
receive federal subsidized loans. And if we don't get 2574
marked up and brought to the floor, they can see their college
students see an increase of $929 from the life of its loan. From where I come from in the upcoming fall semester, most high school graduates who have decided to go to college will be going to the local community college that we have. They just can't afford to leave home. It is a lot less if you can drive across state line; you have to fly. It took me 30 hours to get here yesterday from the Northern Marianas, and so the cost is a very--is prohibitive for some of us. I was just talking to a school class valedictorian recently and she decided to join the service, put on the uniform, and I asked her why and she says, I can't and my family can't afford to send me to college and so I am going to go and do my 6 years and use the G.I. Bill to get an education.'' This is a class valedictorian. And just for your information, over 30 percent of our high school graduates put on the uniform, and many of them that I have spoken to it is because of the use of the G.I. Bill. And so it is really very important for us to keep the costs of college down. Mr. Jenkins, you represent Western Governors. Is the Northern Marianas part of your program--the territory--the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands? They are a part of the Western Governors Association. Are the people from the Northern Mariana Islands part of---- Mr. Jenkins. Yes. Yes. Mr. Sablan [continuing]. Your WGU---- Mr. Jenkins. I am not sure how many students we have but we do cover the territories. Mr. Sablan. Right. Because I am aware of many students in the Northern Mariana Islands who attend online universities-- Phoenix and those kind of for-profit universities, I think, and it is really prohibitive because they just don't have access to--they can't just drive--get in the car and drive elsewhere for a college. I am also aware we have got students who, you know, who go into schools like Harvard and Stanford and Hopkins and those really important Michigan and the California system, for example, and I have a daughter who is graduating--who is turning to a senior in the fall and I am worried about her going to graduate school because it is going to be cost prohibitive. And I am really encouraged by what you guys are talking about because this would allow the people in the Northern Mariana Islands to have greater access to school to get a college education where they can't otherwise. Where I come from over half our workers in the private sector are there on some kind of visa or another--they are not U.S. workers, which is why really one of the reasons I ran for Congress is we need to start investing in our people. We don't have manufacturing; we don't have natural resources. The only thing we have--the most important resource we have are our people, and we need to start investing in their future. Chairman Miller will attest to this that this is always talked about is helping us invest in our future because it is all that we have. And again, I would also encourage my friends on the other side of the aisle to sign onto this because it is really critical--2574. Keeping the cost of college education as low as possible is very important to us--to me, just as I am sure to everyone across--in this Congress and everyone in this room. So, Mr. Chairman, I yield back my time. Chairman Kline. I thank the gentleman. Mr. Guthrie, you are recognized. Mr. Guthrie. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And, Dr. Tate, I was reading through your testimony and I was trying to understand how the assessments work, and I have a scenario like the 40-year-old in your testimony who--a young lady who dropped out of high school because she had a baby, worked in a manufacturing facility, extremely intelligent, figured out that she was, she was working in the factory, trained her for a real high-tech kind of skilled job, but tried to encourage her to go to college. She was 30 years old at this point and saying, Well, if I go to college I have got 5 years to''--it would probably take her 5 years at least to do it and by that point had a teenager, I believe the woman did. And so the thought--what I said to her was, Well, you can go for the next 5 years and really sacrifice a lot and then spend the next 30 years of your career at high income and doing managing things because you have the ability, or you can spend the next 35 years wishing you had gone back.'' And so what-- that is the kind of choice. But if I could have shrunk that time in her mind--if I said, Hey, look. It is not going to take you 4; it is going to take you 1.'' Now, I understand you have a Navy scenario, too. If a Navy person is in the nuclear program and they get out of the Navy and they say, well I have got the probability and statistics I took, I mean, that seems ready to--for somebody to look at and say, That meets our standard.'' You have the 40-year-old that worked--started as a janitor and moved into middle management. This is a lady who started as a factory worker, moved into sort of middle level management-- not quite, but--and I know there were some statistics courses we taught her. But I guess the question is, can you walk through a portfolio assessment? How do you kind of do life experiences don't--not like the Navy that I took basic NCL officer course and this is what was in it. This is the things I did for a living and how does it translate into credit? Ms. Tate. Yes. There are very carefully constructed assessment processes to actually figure out what she knows. Because it isn't what she did that should give the college credit; it is what she knows and has learned. It is the competencies. It is the learning outcomes. And there are ways of knowing that. She can---- Mr. Guthrie. How do they begin? I mean, how do they just start with that? Ms. Tate. First of all, in colleges and in our LearningCounts initiative the person is assisted to figure out first what did she do, then what did she learn from those things. And she documents all that and then we look at what courses at the colleges that she is interested in or is already in, if she is already in one--what courses do these areas of learning look like? And we literally work with her on what do you know, what is in these course outcomes or competency statements, and how can we evaluate and know that you know that? And she is able to actually look item-by-item at--and that is why we like colleges to do a better job of outlining their learning outcomes and courses---- Mr. Guthrie. Well, does your group do that assessment and then say, These are credits she should get,'' and colleges can choose whether or not to accept or---- Ms. Tate. I am sorry. I couldn't hear you. Mr. Guthrie. Does your group do the assessment then, or people in your association do the assessment? Ms. Tate. No. Faculty experts from all over the country do the assessments. Mr. Guthrie. Okay, but they get a credit assigned through the assessment---- Ms. Tate. Yes. The faculty member says yes---- Mr. Guthrie [continuing]. And then colleges--that any college can choose to accept or not accept---- Ms. Tate. Yes. That is right. That is right. And many, many, many do. I mean probably, I don't know, there are probably 2,000 of them that do. Mr. Guthrie. Okay. Ms. Tate. Because they understand that the learning outcomes have been identified; they are on a transcript. It is very clear what they are. They are not general credits of some sort of vague sort. They are identified. It is a part of a program. Mr. Guthrie. Yes. After a while we figured out she could do the work, because I have some master's work in statistics and I was trying to teach her statistical process of controlling and manufacturing and I looked at her and said, You are better at that than I am. I just had access to it.'' And so once she got over the hump of, can I go to college, but the point was the time. So anything that she has--hey, you can do it in 3 instead of 4, I think that really would have encouraged her to do so. But I have one question with Mr. Smith. You say you have courses that don't lead to degrees? And I understand what you are talking about, so you can compete and offer better, but when somebody goes into the job market to make themselves marketable, I can see that you would put on a resume for my business that I had a course in probability and statistics'' because we use that quite a bit, but how does it make them marketable to take courses from your organization but if it doesn't lead--not that they are not learning, but how does it make them marketable in the real world? Mr. Smith. Students come to us, they take however many courses--anywhere from one to 15 or 20 gen eds or standard courses, and then they matriculate to one of our partner colleges or a college that has agreed to award credit for those courses, and on our website we are very clear that if you are not going to one of our partners, check with the college where you are going to make sure they will award credit for these courses. So students take a few courses--the kind they take in any kind of community college or a 4-year environment in their freshman and sophomore year and then transfer into UMCU, Western Governors, or any of the other partners with whom we have. So it is a low-cost, low-risk, very convenient pathway to get those early courses out of the way and then move into a degree. We have started doing some stuff with corporations, where we are becoming part of tuition assistance programs for corporations, and we are--we believe in time we will start to see more recognition from corporations, you know, that these are either equivalent to or--close--or comparable to a degree. Chairman Kline. The gentleman's time has expired. Mrs. Davis? Mrs. Davis. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I certainly appreciate my colleague wanting to personalize for students what they might be able to contribute in terms of those credits, but I think the reality is that when we are--if we are seeing student interest rates going up then if we personalize--in Kentucky, for example, where my colleague is from, 124,000 students--124,069 students received federal subsidized loans, so for those students, you know,$942, which
is the estimated cost in the life of the loan, that is
significant.
And I think trying to put that against what is it that they
would save by getting that credit and not having to take
additional classes, you know, there is a balance there, but I
think what we are trying to get out is the certainty. It is the
certainty of students who know that when they take out a loan
it is going to be the same interest rates when they complete.
And the problem that I think we have with the Republican
alternative in this is that that could change. It could change
every year. That certainty is kind of a--you know, is good for
students, and I think there could be a chilling effect if
students now--Okay, I am going to take out a loan at this
percentage and then by the time I finish I am going to be--It
could be twice that.''
If you don't have a cap and if you change it every year,
that is really a problem. And so trying to find that certainty
I think is what is so important.
What I would like to understand better from you is as we
talk about the kind of disruptive innovation, basically, that
schools are engaged in today, whether it is online, whether it
is MOOCs, whatever that is, how--number one, what is the
federal role in that? What do you think the federal role should
be in supporting that, if at all?
And secondly, how do we really decrease the cost for the
degree by virtue of having these different options for students
and what is the range of that cost? Again, is it--does it
that be greater than, less than? What are we really talking
about here so that we can identify and move forward with those
technologies, that innovation, as opposed to working harder,
perhaps, to make sure that, you know, people enter with a
certainty of what their education is going to cost. It is not
just the student; it is the parent loan, as well, that we see
great increases for.
So, Dr. Boughman, if you could begin to talk about that?
Ms. Boughman. Well, you have made several very important
points, Mrs. Davis. First of all, every little bit helps, so
that keeping interest rates down on student loans of course
would be incredibly important to all of our students who are,
in fact, garnering more and more debt.
Another challenge is understanding the debt that they are
taking on, and having constant rates may, in fact, be more
easily understandable in a very complex environment the point
Our concern is student success as efficiently and
effectively as we possibly can have it, so that a student who
comes in, whether they have transferred credits in from our
community colleges or from any other source, get them to their
degree cleanly and quickly rather than having extra credits
taken in courses that don't lead directly into their degree
pathway.
And this is why in the state of Maryland we are working so
hard with all of our partners to, in fact, have transferability
from institution to institution and use of credits toward
degree processes. And the idea of equivalency is incredibly
important but it is not as easy as it might sound. It does take
faculty time to sit down and figure out whether the accounting
course taken at one institution or another really is equivalent
to the accounting course required for that degree program. So
it is a matter of all of us spending a little bit of time
helping----
Mrs. Davis. Thank you.
And, Dr. Tate, very quickly, because you have spoken more
to this on the panel. When we are talking about individuals
that are veterans that are coming out of the service--Corpsmen,
for example, that have exceptional skills on the battlefield
and are trying to translate those--how do you see the faculties
working with those kind of credits and are they using the
military in order to do that?
Ms. Tate. Well, as was mentioned, the American Council on
Education already reviews military training and makes college
credit recommendations to institutions across the country for
that military training and it is done throughout the services.
And so a person who got that formal training in the Navy or
Army or wherever--they can go to the source, demonstrate to a
college that they have it, and then the faculty and the
registrar and others can sign off on that.
If the learning didn't occur in formal training then they
need to document it in a portfolio of the kind I was describing
and faculty can look at that, too.
Chairman Kline. The gentlelady's time has expired.
Dr. Roe?
Mr. Roe. Thank the chairman, and I thank you for having
this meeting.
And, Mr. Jenkins, I had to laugh a little bit when you
referred to college students in the 1960s as elitist. I
certainly didn't view myself that when I was selling shoes or
hauling hay in the summer. So that is the first time I have
ever been accused of being an elitist.
But I want to thank you all for trying to make innovation
and making college education. I have served on two foundation
boards in college, one as president. It is a huge challenge.
My son, as some of the other members have talked about,
fussed about the cost of college education. I won't mention his
college, but his fall quarter of freshman English cost more
than my 4 years of college did. That is an astounding number
when you hear about that, and students are having to deal with
this all over the country.
I guess a couple of the things that the challenges that you
have--and I want to just open it up for you all because this is
a fascinating discussion we have had--is that when you go to
college you have a certain standard that you have. You have an
ACT score, a GPA, they know the high school where you graduated
from. There are some standards that are there.
How do you equate those standards when you go, let's say,
to Western Governors? That is one. So I know that when I--when
you graduate from U.T.--University of Tennessee, or Vanderbilt,
or Austin Peay, or wherever it may be in Tennessee, I can look
at that college and find out what percentage of those students
pass their nursing exams, their teacher certification exams,
how many in that school that applied to medical school actually
got in medical school and graduated. All that data is out
there.
How do you do that with online? And I think it was brought
up--and I think you are going to have to, in online courses,
set up standards. Because ultimately, I almost see this for
bricks and mortar schools like the post office. Look at what--
look at what these things right here and text messages have
done, and I wonder if that is--if we are not going to harm our
bricks and mortar colleges or are they going to embrace this
and actually embrace the online?
And then one other thing, and I am going to open it up for
you all, is I have still tried to figure out, let's say at
Western Governors, how--and you brought back some memories of
my college education.
Squalus acanthias came up, which is a dogfish shark. How do
you dissect anything when you are in an online course? Or how
do you find the molecular weight of an unknown in your
chemistry class? How do you do that part--that--I could see
where you could take a history class, but when you get into
more technical things like that like I was involved in, how do
you do that?
Mr. Jenkins. Thank you. That is a really, really good
question.
So at WGU the--because we are competency-based we work with
business and industry to determine what are the competencies
that a student needs to be--show mastery of in order to be
successful in that field. And so, for example, in information
technology if you graduate from WGU with a bachelor's degree in
information security, you can have anywhere from 13 to 15 I.T.
industry certifications that are all part of what you pay. As
part of the $3,000 every 6 months,$6,000 a year. It is an all-
are covered within that because we use the technology to
leverage the instruction.
The issue over biology and things like that, we actually
ship a--every student has a camera and we ship a set to--a
learning lab to the students and the students utilize that, and
they video tape it as part of a demonstration project in
undergrad. We do some pre-licensure nursing programs where we
actually have clinicals that we team up with hospitals and
others to provide that kind of clinical supervision where you
need that kind of--that intimate clinical, and we do the same
thing with teacher preparation.
Mr. Roe. What happens when someone applies to WGU? Do you
have certain standards--you have to have an ACT of 24 or 25,
whatever it is, and a GPA of a certain amount?
Mr. Jenkins. We don't have any national assessments. We
have an internal assessment that looks at three key things. It
language arts skills, and you have to be at a certain standard
for those, but it also looks at things like grit and
perseverance and whether you are ready for this learning. That
really counsels out about 20 percent of the students who apply,
so about 80 percent of the students who apply ultimately enroll
and get into the institution.
Mr. Roe. Our state, Dr. Tate, is attempting to use those
things you learn in life, and one is a driver's license. Seems
fairly competent. If you can drive a big huge tank across the
state of Tennessee for the U.S. military you ought to be able
to drive a truck across, and so we license. We do other things
like that to use competency you have already shown and there is
no point in going through an expensive recertification for
that, so I applaud all of you all.
I know my time is about expired but I applaud for what you
are doing in innovation both in the bricks and mortar and
thinking outside the box. But I do think that the online are
going to have to have some standards just like universities do
so you know when you graduate that you are getting a quality
product.
I yield back.
Chairman Kline. Thank the gentleman.
Mr. Courtney, you are recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. Courtney. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for
holding this hearing.
I want to just, again, at the outset note that the day the
chairman brought out H.R. 1911 was May 23rd on the floor of the
House. The measure passed. The 10-year Treasury note yield rate
on that date was 2.02 percent; today it is 2.65 percent.
I mean, if anybody wants a perfect example of how you have
to handle a variable, market-based system with care, just look
at the last 40 days in terms of what is happening since Mr.
how quickly the markets responded in terms of changing the
whole terrain that is affecting home mortgage interest rates,
but certainly a system, if we had enacted 1911, that is going
to turn our student loan system willy-nilly into a market-based
system.
Again, I think as some of the speakers have said here
earlier, I think there is no ideological religious objection to
using market-based, but the fact is that there were not enough
safeguards in 1911 to allow a rate to reset every year while a
student is still in college, given the volatility which we are
seeing, again, just in the last 40 days in terms of Treasury
bonds is, in my opinion, a big warning signal about why we need
to go slow here, to be careful in terms of what we are doing to
students.
And obviously 2574, which extends that rate--84 percent of
the American public supports protecting that lower rate in a
polling that came out, because they have a common sense
understanding of what is the difference between a fixed rate
and a variable rate, and that we saw in 2008, the world economy
tied to these subprime mortgages blow up because of the fact
that people, again, were peddling these things and buying these
Again, I would note that my good friend who just spoke from
the state of Tennessee has 138,000 students receiving federal
subsidized loan. Again, their costs will go up $973. Again, I would ask him to join us on our side to, again, do what I think the American people know is the smart move here, which is extend the rate, and in the context of a higher education authorization bill, which will incorporate all of the mechanisms from Pell Grants, Perkins, Stafford, and also the great ideas that are being discussed here today. That is the comprehensive solution that the country is looking for. Again, as someone whose family had great news about a year- and-a-half ago when my oldest son announced that his credits that he had accumulated outside of Georgetown University were going to allow him to finish in 3-\1/2\ years, we felt like we won the lottery that day that he announced that. I took him out to dinner that night here in town and said, Order whatever you want on the menu.'' Again, the ideas that you are putting forth here about affordable solutions, again, is just so important and again, a Higher Ed Authorization Act, which I think can really structure ways to enable students and families to do that, is just so important for us to do. Dr. Tate, again, I would just like to focus again on the military aspect. Again, one of the big challenges we are hearing out there is that folks on military installations who are close to discharge, again, are sort of getting swarmed by individuals who know that the post-9/11 G.I. Bill is sitting there waiting. And, you know, how we can, you know, sort of equip those families, because again, they have a benefit they can extend to their children and spouses so that they spend it the smartest way possible. How can we give them the earliest knowledge about what their skills that they learned, whether it was driving a truck like Dr. Roe said, or Corpsmen, you know, will give them a better sort of horizon to make the best choice for their families? Ms. Tate. I think that there are a variety of things that can be done and various people in various places are trying. There is not a comprehensive solution yet. But for example, in the Midwest employers--our veterans initiative that we are engaged in there, upon discharge we give this individual career and educational advising immediately so that they know their choice of options, they know their prior learning, they know what the best pathway is to a degree or credential, and the time to work with them is right then, not after 6 months has passed, but right at the time of transition from active military into after military status. So what I believe is that that kind of solution needs to be, you know, universally in place. Colleges are doing tremendous things with veterans but the veterans have to find them first, and what we need is interventions that move in on the bases with individuals and help them right then. Mr. Courtney. Thank you. I think that is the right time. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Chairman Kline. I thank the gentleman. Mr. Rokita, you are recognized for 5 minutes. Mr. Rokita. I thank the chairman and I welcome the witnesses. It has been a very interesting panel. Thank you all for participating. My first question goes to Mr. Smith. Now, StraighterLine-- that is not what we call the MOOCs, right? That is a different model? Mr. Smith. Yes and no. Mr. Rokita. Massive open online course, for those at home. Mr. Smith. So no in that it is not the same but the principles are the same. The difference is we have created a pathway to credit for which we can charge, so we sort of think of ourselves as a MOOC with a business model. Mr. Rokita. A MOOC with what? Mr. Smith. A business model. Mr. Rokita. Do you consider Mr. Jenkins' operation a MOOC-- again, massive open online course? Mr. Smith. No. Mr. Rokita. Okay. I just wanted to be sure. What impact do you see these open online courses having on traditional higher education and what impacts do you see your company having on traditional higher education? Can you compare? When you say you are a MOOC with a business model, just unpack that a little bit---- Mr. Smith. Sure. I think a---- Mr. Rokita [continuing]. 30 seconds or so. Mr. Smith. I think a better phrase than MOOC is--and equally inelegant, but a marginal cost pricing model. I mean, so the--I realize it doesn't roll off the tongue, but the--that is kind of what is happening is so we are pricing much closer to the cost of delivery, the MOOCs are pricing closer to the cost of delivery, and the irony is it has to be done outside of the accreditation structure to be able to deliver it. So it has tremendous potential but it is restricted by the willingness to award credit for these different sources. Mr. Rokita. Dr. Tate, real quick? Ms. Tate. Oh, I was just going to add that, you know, MOOCs for the most part are still non-credit, though a few are beginning to be offered for credit. And in the beginning no one really--that was offering them really cared whether anybody got credit. Mr. Rokita. I see. Ms. Tate. This model that Burck is talking about is one where the intention is to go for college credit. They are all online open resources. Mr. Rokita. Okay. And, Dr. Boughman, you agree with that? Ms. Boughman. Yes. In fact, it--from the more traditional university point of view it is the equivalency that becomes important in the transferability into a degree pathway. Mr. Rokita. Okay. Thank you. And then, Mr. Jenkins, of course, you and I crossed paths when I was Indiana secretary of state and you were the governor's senior advisor on education, and of course, Indiana--we have been talking about state numbers here, state statistics--of course, Indiana is a member of the Western Governors Association, at least in terms of the university. Can you tell me in the 2 years that Indiana has been involved what the numbers suggest and what conclusions you draw? Indiana specific, please. Mr. Jenkins. Thank you. So in Indiana right now we have gone from--when you signed the executive order as secretary of state we went from 250 students and one employee to now we have 3,500 students and well over 700 graduates, and all of those are in I.T., business, health care, nursing, teacher preparation. The average age of those students is 36 years old. It has been a strong success in the state. State need-based aid is provided to the students who are otherwise eligible, which really, when you couple that with Pell, pretty much covers the entire cost of their education going through. We have a lot of success stories from Indiana. It was the first state that actually created a state-branded WGU and it has been a strong model targeting adult learners--the 750,000 adult Hoosiers that have some college and no degree. And there is a lot of work still to be done in the state, but institutions like ours and others are moving in that direction. Mr. Rokita. But, Mr. Jenkins, how much has tuition risen? Mr. Jenkins. In that time our tuition has not risen. Mr. Rokita. Oh. Mr. Jenkins. It has stayed the same. Mr. Rokita. Very good. And MBA program too, now? Mr. Jenkins. Our MBA program has grown from--at this point our MBA program is, I believe, one of the largest-enrolled MBA programs in the state underneath I.U., Purdue, and Notre Dame-- number four. Mr. Rokita. All right. Thank you. You mentioned financial aid. When you compare it to traditional education you are saying it is the same amount of financial aid and the same types, or is there any difference or any bias against or for you? Mr. Jenkins. So in Indiana we established as part of the executive order and the agreement with Indiana that our students would be funded at the same rate as if they were attending a public university. Mr. Rokita. But that is state-by-state. Other states---- Mr. Jenkins. Yes. State-by-state agreement for state need- based aid. Mr. Rokita. Okay. I yield back, Mr. Chairman. Thank the witnesses again. Chairman Kline. I thank the gentleman. Mr. Hinojosa? Mr. Hinojosa. Thank you, Chairman Kline and Ranking Member Miller. While I clearly understand the need to hold a hearing on innovation in higher education, our committee and Congress, it seems to me, cannot continue to neglect students and families and allow colleges to become more expensive and not affordable. Listening to the gentleman from Indiana, Congressman Todd Rokita who just spoke, I would like to point out to you that your state of Indiana has 291,000 students receiving federal subsidized loans and that if this committee fails to adopt this Democratic petition and fails to enact H.R. 2574, Keep Student Loans Affordable Act of 2013, each student in your state will see their college costs increase an average of$929.
And I, too, am quite concerned because in my state of Texas
we have 464,000 students who are borrowers as of this last
school year and academic year, and that, to me, is reason for
wanting to have this extended another year until we can find a
better solution than what has been proposed.
Without Congress' swift action, more than 7 million low-and
moderate-income students--and I repeat, more than 7 million
low-and moderate-income students working towards a college
degree will have to pay an additional $1,000 for each loan they borrow. On June 28th of this year Democratic members requested that this committee mark up the bill to reverse the rate but received no response. Every Democratic member has signed the petition to bring this bill up for a vote. The bill we are proposing will help ensure that college remains within reach for students who rely on federal loans to pay for their education. As ranking member of this Subcommittee on Higher Ed, I ask my Republican colleagues to do what is right. Sign this special petition so that we can move the bill to reverse that rate increase. And at this time I would like to proceed with questions for our witnesses. My first question is for Dr. Joann Boughman. In your testimony you mentioned that gatekeeper courses posing significant problems for many college students and halt their degree progression. Please explain to us how course redesign has helped students persist in your college. Ms. Boughman. Thank you, sir. Our course redesigns are, in fact, teaching our teachers as well as our students, and one of the things that we are clearly learning is that interactive and active learning models, in fact, help students learn better and longer so that, in fact, these course redesigns that engage the students in a progressive kind of way and an interactive kind of way are leading to higher student success, lower dropout rates, and, in fact, progression more quickly toward degree---- Mr. Hinojosa. Would you think that the system that you just described is supporting the nontraditional student? Ms. Boughman. It supports the nontraditional as well as the traditional student, and these blended learnings as well are moving from the strict, old-fashioned lecture format to the blended learning to the totally online are capturing not only new areas of teaching and learning, but are also utilizing the skills--the electronic skills that the newer generations have so well adapted to. Mr. Hinojosa. Thank you for your answer. My next question is for Mr. Scott Jenkins. I am somewhat familiar with your Western Governors University. How are the academic credits, the awards, the progression determined in a competency-based education framework and how is student achievement handled for purposes of transcripts and transfer of credit? Mr. Jenkins. Thank you. The university works with external program councils made up of business, industry, and academia to determine the competencies toward each degree program. Our faculty then uses those competencies and bundles them into courses, identifies learning resources from business, industry, publishers, other institutions, and directs students to those learning resources in order to learn the competency. And then we---- Mr. Hinojosa. I like that you are working with---- Chairman Kline. I am sorry. The gentleman's time has expired. Mrs. Brooks? Mrs. Brooks. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. To follow up a little bit--Mr. Jenkins, good to see you again, having worked with you in Indiana, as well, at my time at Ivy Tech. So while Western Governors University is not really new--it has been around I guess since 1997 but has enjoyed tremendous success in Indiana--how are the placements-- the job placements of your graduates doing? And it is a fairly new higher ed concept, and so are employers embracing your graduates, both at the undergraduate and at the graduate school level? Mr. Jenkins. Thank you. That is a great question. It is great to see you. The debate used to be whether online learning was as good as classroom learning. That is really not where we are these days. We believe that we can--we have improved both quality and affordability, and we measure success of our students on lots of different measures, one of which is we look at our students themselves and we do an annual student satisfaction survey and 97 percent say that they are satisfied or very satisfied with their education. We also survey them to find out how many have received a raise, promotion, or new job, and about 65 percent of our graduates have received that. We do an employer survey every year, and when we survey employers 98 percent rated the preparation of WGU students as equal to or better than graduates of other institutions. We are really serious about our work with business and industry and form partnerships, and we actually go to them and ask them not only do you like what our graduates are doing, but are there weak areas where we can improve, where we can embed that kind of competency into the curriculum? So we have had a great, successful partnership with business and industry in our university. Mrs. Brooks. Thank you. I am proud to report--and I doubt that you know this--my paralegal when I was a general counsel at Ivy Tech Community College was a student at WGU. She had her associate's degree and was working toward a bachelor's through WGU, and I continue to keep up with her progress, so it has been fabulous. Quick question for Dr. Tate with respect to prior learning assessments, and I am familiar with them, having been at the community college, but it seems a challenge is finding those evaluators and the people within the higher ed institutions who are trained and have the ability and the willingness to take, for instance, the veterans' experience. What is CAEL doing with respect to helping the higher ed institutions embrace prior learning assessments so that it can become a more useful tool and so that so many particularly adults, you know, can go back to college and earn some of those credits? Ms. Tate. There are two ways that we are working with higher education on this. The first is something we have done for decades, and that is to--we have formal training that can be done on campus, regionally, online--a whole variety of methods to train faculty to become quality assessors of prior learning, and the number who are able to do this is growing. But the second thing we have done is to launch our own LearningCounts prior learning assessment national service online, and for that we draw on faculty all over the country in all the disciplines to do the assessments and they are trained by us. Our idea is that this will get the prior learning assessment idea to scale, and we work with the colleges and universities to make this happen. So I think it is both training--awareness-building and training and it is the launch of something at a national scale that is online. And I think those two ways as well as, obviously, working with accreditors and state systems of higher education--all of those are going to combine to really bring this to national visibility and scale. Mrs. Brooks. Are there any states in particular--and I apologize if you answered this earlier--that are doing this particularly well, and should we, in looking at, you know, reauthorization of higher ed reauthorization act, be rewarding or incentivizing higher ed institutions in some way? Ms. Tate. Well, if you just take one state--I could mention many--Tennessee passed a performance funding bill in 2010 that gives institutions some additional credit for helping adult learners graduate in higher numbers. And a key piece of that has been a statewide policy on prior learning assessment that all colleges agreed upon. We worked with Tennessee over several years to make that happen and it is now in place. And that has fostered the expansion of prior learning assessment throughout the state. So there are others but Tennessee's is linked to a performance funding formula. Mrs. Brooks. Thank you. And thank you all. Chairman Kline. Gentlelady's time has expired. Mr. Tierney? Mr. Tierney. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My colleague, Mrs. Brooks, will be happy to know that we have already used the Indiana number so you don't have to listen to that litany of direct information. But I do think it is worth making the point, as we have been trying to do here all morning, that Congress hasn't acted. It is costing students around$1,000 more per loan because we haven't acted.
One of my colleagues, the colleague from Michigan,
indicated that he is going to sign a petition to get the Senate
to respond, but the Senate has responded. And what they said is
they are not interested in taking up the Republican bill
because, as has been indicated by CBO and others, it would
actually cost students more than if we just let it double.
So we need to do something, so my recommendation, my hope
is that the chairman wouldn't even need the rest of the
signatures of the three people we are looking for, would just
take this bill up in committee that we put forth with Mr.
Courtney, and set the rate at 3.4 percent while we try to work
within the context of the higher education reauthorization to
deal with all loans.
And one of the sticking points on dealing with all loans is
going to be that many don't believe that it should be a profit
center, that we don't think the rates ought to go high enough
to more than cover the cost of the loan and the administration
and the impossible default rate on that, and the rest going
down to pay for a deficit the students and their families
didn't really incur. So we are going to have that debate and it
is going to be a lot more extensive, but in the interim, in a
way that doesn't raise the deficit at all, why can't we just
sign the petition or bring the matter up to pass Mr. Courtney's
bill and take care of those 7.4 million students and let them
avoid that burden on that?
Because what I hear here this morning are some seeds for
agreement. I mean, I haven't heard a lot of disagreement on--
across the aisle here as we talk forward. People are interested
in innovation. They are interested in finding ways to decrease
the cost in that and get people through school quicker but with
the competencies that they need.
I had a hearing recently of over 50 educators in New
England. All were excited about the different things we have
talked about. As Dr. Roe indicated, some are concerned that it
might be a standard cost issue with some of the bricks and
mortar on that, but other schools are saying no because if they
use this well they will bring in more students and deal with
the other issue we have is are we graduating enough students
with these credentials on that. So I think there are ways to
work out all of that.
And we have had a lot of questions here this morning so let
me try to differentiate a little bit. We talked about learning
assessments on that basis. What about internships, and
apprenticeships, and work study, other ways--can't we have a
way of utilizing those tools--work study, apprenticeships,
internships, in a way that allows students to earn money
towards their cost of school or whatever at the same time
getting credit for the experience that they are earning on
that?
And, Mr. Smith, I think you are probably not in that field.
I don't mean to slight you but your testimony was very well
appreciated on that.
But Dr. Boughman, and then Dr. Tate, and then Mr. Jenkins,
Ms. Boughman. Yes. Thank you, sir.
In fact, many of our degree programs are now requiring
internships, but in fact, providing course credit for those.
And our board of regents has passed a policy that says at least
12 credits of the 120 for a college degree is expected to be
taken outside the classroom. So in fact, our board of regents
is leading the way in providing this concept that an
integration of skills and ability as well as classroom learning
is extremely important.
Mr. Tierney. Thank you.
Doctor?
Ms. Tate. I would just add that colleges and universities
all over the country in many states are moving in the same
direction. I am delighted to see that and I think the key is
ensuring that the assessment of that learning is done by the
institution and its faculty.
The same principles apply to the prior learning of adults.
If the right assessment is done, whether it was through work or
community service or some other vehicle, if the assessment is
done then you can certify the learning. And I think both of
those--they are really complementary in terms of their concept
Mr. Jenkins. So over 90 percent of our students are over
the age of 25. We serve a--really a nontraditional, working
student. So with our institution, a lot of times the bookkeeper
who has been working without a degree in a small laundromat can
come to WGU and accelerate through their degree program,
demonstrating the knowledge they have of accounting and
bookkeeping and reading a balance sheet and those sort of
things so that they can move forward quickly at a low cost.
Mr. Tierney. So are all of the higher education
institutions, in your opinions, currently equipped to make
those assessments or is there something else needed to assist
them to be able to do that and encourage them to do it?
Ms. Tate. I think that faculty are much better at research
and teaching than they are assessment. And I think that would
be--you would find that to be true regardless of where you
look. So I think a major improvement here could be that faculty
could get increasing training on how to assess learning.
Mr. Tierney. Thank you.
Chairman Kline. The gentleman's time has expired.
Ms. Bonamici?
Ms. Bonamici. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and Ranking
Member Miller, for holding this hearing today, which is titled,
Keeping College Within Reach: Improving Education through
Innovation.'' And obviously the goal was to tie those together
but I am actually going to talk about them separately.
First I want to talk about keeping college within reach,
and really join with my colleagues in voicing my desire for a
bipartisan solution to the recent increase in federal student
loan interest rates. We all know that the public is watching
us. We need to come up with a solution. Every day we delay is
letting down students and also, I think, really affecting the
public's perception of whether Congress can get anything done.
So I call on my colleagues. Let's support a 1-year
extension of the 3.4 rate, commit to finding a long-term
bipartisan solution.
I wanted to share a little bit of information from my home
state of Oregon. Our legislative session just ended yesterday,
in fact, and something happened there--a vote that was, I
believe, unanimous--certainly bipartisan, but I believe
unanimous in both chambers.
Oregon is really taking some innovative steps to making
college more affordable and they passed a pilot called Pay it
Forward, Pay it Back,'' and its approach to college funding,
which once the pilot is developed, I think is going to be truly
groundbreaking. Under this proposal a student could attend a
covers the tuition, and then once the student graduates he or
she will be committed to paying back a percentage of his or her
income to the state for a designated period of time. It is a
truly progressive--not meaning liberal, but progressive not
regressive--policy.
I am going to be watching very closely as they explore this
pilot because it is something that could truly make a
difference in the lives of students and pay for itself. Pay it
Forward, Pay it Back.
So when we talk about keeping college within reach I think
we do need to think big and think outside the box and look at
innovative ways that we can reach the needs of ours students.
We have heard the words crisis'' today and too many
economically disadvantaged children are not able to attend
college, so let's think big on that.
Now I want to turn to the Improving Education through
Innovation portion of the title, and yes, this is about
improving education through innovation and innovation can mean
a lot of different things, from online learning to more
technology in education. Whatever approach we pursue--and I
reviewed your testimony; apologize I couldn't be here when you
delivered it orally--I think we need to recognize the
importance of developing some very critical skills that are
really important to someone thriving, especially in a business
community, but in a global marketplace, and those skills are
written and oral communication, teamwork and collaboration, and
critical thinking.
So could you discuss a bit about how online learning
affects, whether it be the ability to communicate written and
oral, what does that do to critical thinking, and especially
the teamwork and collaboration that are so necessary in today's
Any of you can start. I would like to hear from all of you
on that issue.
Ms. Boughman. Let me start, and thank you very much. And
we, too, will be watching Oregon very carefully on the Pay it
Forward, Pay it Back process.
In both the blended classroom learning and in the way we
are moving to online learning with interactions and constant
feedback loops with students as well as project-based learning
rather than individual problem sets and quizzes--moving to
group-based activities--we believe that we are addressing some
of the deficits that we have had in providing these interaction
skills and oral and written communication skills as we prepare
our students to move forward.
So especially in the blended classroom learning situation I
think we are doing a much better job than we have in the past.
Ms. Bonamici. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins. So, as Dr. Tate mentioned in the last
response, a lot of institutions when you look at the
institution and want to see how they do assessment, at the
institutional level it probably could fit at a table this size.
At WGU we have hundreds of faculty who think every day
about how do you measure things like critical thinking skills?
How do you--what is the best type of assessment to deploy in a
particular competency in order to measure that type of skill?
Is it a video presentation that is then reviewed according to a
rubric? Is it a team experience? Is it a different type of
model?
So the online experience, I can tell you, is as intimate a
learning experience as you would get in a traditional
classroom, and in some cases it is higher quality.
Ms. Bonamici. Thank you.
Dr. Tate, did you want to add to----
Ms. Tate. Yes. I just wanted to add that--or reinforce the
fact that when people are learning online it does not mean that
they are learning in isolation. What in fact is happening is
what you are hearing, and that is that everyone is finding ways
to make it interactive, collaborative, and when we are dealing
with adult learners, who is our focus, they tend to bring a lot
of that collaborative teamwork from their work experience and
add to it their own--their--the subject matter expertise that
they have to gain through a formal college experience.
Chairman Kline. The gentlelady's time has expired.
We assembled a top-notch panel. The bar was really high for
expectations and you certainly didn't disappoint.
Let me yield to Mr. Miller for any closing remarks he has.
Mr. Miller. Chairman, I want to second your remarks. I just
think this has been an outstanding panel and I would like to
pick your brains when we are done with the formal hearing here.
Higher Education Act and this hearing, two people--Dr. Bowen, I
think it is, a former president of Princeton, and Mark Bicturn,
is it, yes--you know, they both sort of talk about the staying
power of the universities, that we can get flip and suggest
that we just don't need them anymore, they are going to be gone
and all of this is going to succeed and replace them.
And I was also reading a speech given a year or so ago by
the president of Indiana University, McRobbie, McRobbie--I am
sorry, I am bad with names--and he also talked about just the
fundamental change that that entity has to make to accommodate
much of what you presented to them through your various
integrate this learning as opposed to teaching into the
universities and into American society through various--and,
Ms. Boughman, you are kind of at the center of this for a major
university and I just--there is a lot of tension here but I
guess I do respect an institution that has been around since
400 B.C. in one form or another in a variety of different
countries at different times--its staying power.
But all this we change here to the benefit of our
constituents--American families, students, however you want to
describe it, is really remarkable--the potential that is
sitting here on the edge of the university, and how do you
integrate that and still keep a viable institution that I think
is important to American culture?
Ms. Boughman. I would agree wholeheartedly with you. And
one of the joys that I have is to have the diverse set of
institutions that we have working with us, from the totally
online UMUC through our HBCUs to University of Maryland College
Park and others that are research one universities.
We believe we do have a challenge and we do need to be held
accountable for making it worth it to make the choice to come
to a 4-year campus for 4 years or to, in fact, choose a
different path that would lead to a viable degree to move on in
the world. And I think part of the issue is making that choice
known, making that diversity well worth it.
And each student--some of the older students would be
different, but every student is going to have a different
pathway that would fit best for them and we believe that our
universities will have much to give to students to enrich their
lives.
Mr. Miller. But you are starting to become a facilitator,
an integrator, but you also have to become a change agent on
campus----
Ms. Boughman. Right.
Mr. Miller [continuing]. And that seems to be a place where
there is a lot of tension holding back the opportunity that is
presented by these--all of your institutions. How do you
conquer that?
Ms. Boughman. There is a great deal of inertia, if you
will. It has worked for us for many years; why won't it
continue to work? What we are finding is evidence does change
minds, so that the processes that we are going through in
comparing things side by side, when we show improved student
success and learning on the part of the faculty, as well, gives
us better results at a lower cost, other faculty will listen
and are engaging.
So there is a tide that is rolling out there and we will, I
think, eventually change a lot of minds about the way we can
adapt to new methodologies in teaching.
Mr. Miller. Well, thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. This has been a fascinating
morning on this topic.
Chairman Kline. I thank the gentleman.
Again, I want to thank the panel for just excellent
presentation. A lot of innovative ideas. You are doing a lot of
great stuff. You represent a great diversity in institutions
and ideas.
We did have an awful lot of discussion today about student
loans. Was an interesting approach from my colleagues.
Sometimes they forget that we passed legislation out of
this committee--bipartisan legislation--and we passed
legislation on the floor of the House--bipartisan legislation--
to tie student loan interest rates to the market using the 10-
year Treasury in an essentially budget-neutral way; and we have
a proposal from the White House that ties student loans
interest rates to the 10-year Treasury in an essentially
budget-neutral way; we have a bipartisan proposal in the Senate
to tie student loan interest rates to the 10-year Treasury in
an essentially budget-neutral way.
All the elements are there to get this thing solved for the
long time. We have had more than a year of knowing that these
interest rates were going to double from 3.4 to 6.8 percent if
we didn't adopt a long-term solution. That is what we are
trying to do. We are going to continue to try to do that, get
the Senate to take up one of their excellent proposals over
there and pass it.
Again, I want to thank the panelists. You have been
absolutely excellent.
There being no further business, the committee stands
[Questions submitted for the record and their responses
follow:]

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Mr. Jenkins Response to Questions Submitted for the Record

mr. kline
1. How are tuition rates set in a competency-based model? How does
that fit in with the current distribution system of federal financial
aid?

Theoretically, there are numerous different tuition models that
might work with competency-based education, and that is another key
reason to authorize a demonstration project. At WGU, tuition is set at
a flat rate for each 6-month term. Students may register for as many
courses as they can successfully complete for this flat rate. However,
to be considered full time for financial aid, undergraduate students
must enroll in a minimum of 12 competency units per term (competency
units are roughly equivalent to credit hours). This motivates students
to go faster, and because students can complete more courses at a
faster rate, the degree costs less and costs the federal government
significantly less in financial aid.
In a competency-based model like WGU, tuition is not billed on a
per credit hour basis. This means there are a minimum amount of courses
that can be completed but not a maximum. This type of model does not
fit well within the current federal financial aid system. For example,
by its nature, competency-based education does not have standard terms.
The current system assumes a certain number of credit-hours'' up
front. It doesn't envision open-ended systems that let students add
courses prior to the end of the term.

2. What are the incentives for institutions and employers to accept
or move to a competency-based or prior learning framework over a credit
hour based framework?

It is important to clarify the distinction between competency-based
and prior learning frameworks in order to gain a correct understanding
of the differences in these two models. Prior learning models assign
credit for an entire course based on an evaluation of a student's prior
experience. It typically occurs at the front end of the course of
study. Competency-based models are on the back end and are much more
granular in measuring student learning. It allows students to apply
what they know at the competency level, not the course level. All
students have to take the same assessments and demonstrate mastery of
the competency.
For institutions, generally speaking, there are several
disincentives for embracing a competency-based education model. These
include:
1. Students are encouraged and more likely to finish early.
Accelerating time to degree will negatively impact tuition resources
and financial aid eligibility.
2. Institutions and faculty are made much more accountable for
student learning outcomes which they typically resist.
Employers often complain that graduates aren't prepared for the
workforce. Competency-based education offers some distinct benefits:
Competency-based graduates have demonstrated mastery of a
standard body of knowledge, and they have done so by passing each
course with the equivalent of a B or better. This assures employers
that the graduates they hire are well prepared for their jobs.
WGU improves on the standard model because required
competencies and curriculum for all WGU degree programs are developed
in collaboration with industry representatives, helping ensure that the
students are learning what employers need and that courses are relevant
and up to date.
Tuition at WGU is very affordable, which is important for
employers who provide tuition reimbursement.
With competency-based learning at WGU, the average time to
complete a bachelor's degree is about 35 months, significantly shorter
than the national average of 52 months, saving both time and money.
mrs. foxx
1. What benchmarks are put in place to ensure students, who are
receiving federal financial aid, are actually making progress and not
simply faltering on the same competency over and over again?

Students are required to enroll in a minimum number of competency
units (equivalent to semester credits) within a 6-month term to
maintain their financial aid eligibility. The minimum for full-time
students, the minimum is 8 competency units. Students must successfully
complete two-thirds of attempted courses to be making satisfactory
progress; otherwise, they lose eligibility for financial aid. To
complete a course, students must pass a performance or an objective
assessment, which may include tactical examinations for nurses,
demonstration teaching internship, proctored objective tests or papers,
presentations, projects, etc. Students must earn the equivalent of a B
or better. Students earn competency units when they successfully
complete the corresponding assessments. In addition, WGU imposes limits
on the number of assessment attempts by students.

2. What support services does WGU provide for struggling students?
Can you explain the mentor's role in more detail?

WGU's faculty model is completely focused on student success, and
the faculty support provided is individualized to meet students' needs.
Upon enrollment, each student is assigned a Student Mentor, who will
work with the student one-on-one until graduation. Student Mentors, who
have a minimum of a master's degree in their field as well as relevant
work experience, speak with their students weekly and are in constant
contact with them, helping them plan and schedule their studies,
solving problems, and providing support.
In addition to Student Mentors, WGU has Course Mentors, who are
subject matter experts for each course. These mentors, most with PhDs,
work with students as they move through their courses, leading learning
communities, answering questions, and even tutoring by telephone if
needed.
A separate and independent faculty group performs grading and
evaluation. When assessments are submitted for evaluation, it is
anonymous, which helps eliminate bias and enhances objectivity. In
addition, using a separate group of evaluators, rather than mentors,
allows mentors to focus on helping students learn and succeed.
The efficacy of this unique faculty role is reflected in the
National Study of Student Engagement (NSSE) where WGU students report
having better relationships with faculty, spending more time on
academic work, applying more higher-order thinking skills, and feeling
higher overall satisfaction than the national average.
Additionally, students are part of learning communities, where they
interact with faculty and other students. Using learning analytics to
identify struggling students and target mentor support, these students
dedicated to helping students who are struggling with math and writing,
all available with extended hours.
WGU also provides a service called WellConnect for all of our
students. WellConnect provides mental health counseling, legal
counseling, and other services aimed at helping students solve problems
that could interfere with their progress toward a degree. Finally, WGU
has a student services office designed to quickly resolve any student
issue. Examples include: financial aid, a concern with faculty/mentor,
assessment results, or other administrative question that the student
is having difficulty addressing on their own.
mr. polis
In your testimony you say that one of the best ways to spur
innovation would be for Congress to authorize a demonstration project
for competency-based learning similar to the demonstration project
authorized by Congress for distance learning. How are WGU's efforts
obstructed by the current framework of higher education, specifically
when it comes to offering financial aid and providing a flexible
project would help mitigate these concerns? Some have argued that the
department already has the necessary authority to operate this
demonstration project. Can you please elaborate on this?

Demonstration program
Technically, the Department of Education may have the authority to
waive certain regulations to support competency-based education.
Unfortunately, the proof that this authority is not adequate to change
behavior is that in seven years since it has been granted direct
assessment authority, it has approved only one program. Also, some
argue that the Department of Education could use its authority to
establish an experimental site. No institution has applied to do this,
and this is probably because the Department has indicated that it would
take up to two years to gain approval. Finally, the Department has
indicated a burdensome cost concern that appears to make it hesitant to
move forward. All of these concerns and current realities are assumed
and explored within the competency-based demonstration project. So
while the Department, in a perfect environment, might have the
authority to pursue this innovative approach, it has failed to do so.
That is why Congress should direct and empower the Department of
Education to conduct this necessary project.
More than 37 million Americans have some college but no degree.
This incredibly deep talent supply has only superficially been tapped
with competency-based programs like WGU. The current legal and
regulatory environment is simply too inhospitable to support the
creation and logical expansion of these types of programs.
There is no objective way under current law that Title IV Student
Financial Assistance can accommodate competency-based education models
effectively and efficiently enough to encourage this vital sector to
flourish. For example, certain satisfactory progress requirements do
not promote or encourage students to accelerate time to degree
completion. Instead, these rules act as a disincentive for students to
extend their efforts by attempting considerably more competency units.
This is because there are punitive consequences if attempted versus
completed'' does not meet the minimum federal requirement.
Passage by Congress as quickly as possible of a Competency-Based
Education Demonstration Program will allow the Secretary of Education
to waive specified statutory and regulatory requirements under Title IV
and allow for a controlled demonstration program that will allow
Congress and the Department to better understand the statutory and
regulatory changes that need to be made to allow greater acceptance of
competency-based higher education.
We suggest that the following statutes and regulations are the most
toxic and disabling to existing and potential programs, and Congress
should empower the Secretary to waive for those institutions selected
for the Competency-based Demonstration Project.
The requirements of sections 481(a) and 481(b) as such sections
relate to requirements for a minimum number of weeks of instruction,
sections 102(a)(3)(A), 102(a)(3)(B), and 484(l)(1), section
668.32(a)(1)(iii) of title 34, Code of Federal Regulations, as it
relates to courses leading to teacher certification, or one or more of
the regulations prescribed under this part or part F which inhibit the
operation of competency-based education programs. In addition to the
waivers described above, for institutions that propose a rational and
defensible plan for competency-based education and for the waivers
being sought, the Secretary may waive any of the requirements under
sections (and corresponding regulations) in title I, part F of this
title, and this part, that inhibit the operation of competency-based
education programs, including requirements that relate to:
(A) documenting attendance;
(C) minimum weeks of instructional time;
(D) requirements for credit hour/clock hour equivalencies;
(E) requirements for substantive interaction with faculty;
(F) definitions of the terms academic year', full-time student',
term' (including standard term', non-term', and non-standard
term'), satisfactory academic progress' (SAP), educational activity',
program of study' and payment period'.
______

[Whereupon, at 12:24 p.m., the committee was adjourned.]

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