Financial Aid – Key for CBE

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Continuing in our twelve-part blog series designed to help students know if enrolling in a Competency Based Education (CBE) program is a good decision for them, today we visit “Financial Aid”.

The twelve factors that will be explored are experience, motivation, availability of time, support, CBE program knowledge, educational background, technology skills, financial aid, reflective attributes, action attributes, academic skills, and resource management.

Financial Aid – Part 8 of A Dozen Things To Think About Before Starting A CBE Program

According to the US News, the cost of a college degree has more than doubled, when adjusted for inflation, since 1986 – faster than the cost of health care, and well ahead of the median family income.  One of the primary reasons why there is so much interest in CBE programs is that they may be able to shorten the time needed to complete a degree and thereby reduce the cost for degree completion as aid

CBE programs are able to shorten the time to degree completion because advancement in the CBE program is not based on how much time you have spent in the classroom (measured in credit hours), but based on how much learning you have attained through the demonstration of mastery of competencies.

However, the foundation of the federal financial aid program is that the government is willing to use tax payer money to pay for instruction to students.  The amount of instruction they pay for is also measured in those same credit hours.  Because the federal financial aid program is based on a system of awarding financial aid based on how many hours a student is in the classroom makes it difficult for federal student aid to be awarded to students.

Some schools with CBE programs are able to work around this by translating the competencies you have earned back into credit hours.  But there are still other barriers.  Federal student aid rules set strict dates on which aid can be distributed and used.  But CBE programs often allow students to start their program at any time and progress at their own pace.  A third barrier is that for a student to continue receiving federal aid they must demonstrate “satisfactory academic progress.”  This is easily demonstrated through grades in a traditional course.  But competencies are either “earned” or “not earned” and are typically not “graded.”

This matter is complex.  The main thing you need to know as you are considering a CBE program is to ask the school whether or not the program qualifies for financial aid.  Some programs do and some do not.  You do not need to enter with the assumption that you will receive federal student aid, first find out for sure.   If you would like to understand the issue read the paper titled Competency-Based Education and Federal Student Aid released by the CBE

So as you are considering a CBE program find out if the program qualifies for federal student aid.  Even if it does not, the school itself may have internally funded scholarship and student work programs that can provide financial assistance.  Be proactive.  Ask about all types of financial aid programs that may be available to you.

This blog series is provided by Dr. Mac Adkins who is the CEO and Founder of SmarterServices which is the provider of the CBE Readiness Indicator which is powered by the SmarterMeasure Assessment Engine.    Mac holds a PhD in Educational Leadership and for the past three decades has served in leadership positions at multiple universities and for the past fourteen years has served as the CEO and Founder of SmarterServices.  During this period of time SmarterServices has measured levels of student readiness of over 3.8 million students from over 500 colleges and universities. 

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