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The Value of a Competency-Based Education

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According to College Atlas, seven out of 10 Americans start college, but only two-thirds of them graduate, and the cost of dropping out is substantial: A degree increases lifetime income by $630,000 to $900,000.

Balancing work and school ranks high on the list of reasons for dropping out, but now there is a way to build a course of study that not only makes earning advanced education affordable, but also uses work experience to accelerate progress toward a degree: competency-based education.

What Is Competency-Based Education (CBE)?

The YourPace online CBE bachelor’s degree program, for instance, starts with a Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) that measures a student’s mastery of educational topics gained through experiences such as work, military service or other life experiences.

Unlike the traditional education model that values time spent in a classroom to learn course material, the University of Maine at Presque Isle (UMPI) YourPace program enables students to show mastery of subject matter by completing a series of activities to measure competency.

The YourPace curriculum — based on the PLA, desired degree track, transferred credits and professional certifications — recognizes these prior life experiences by equating them to a set of competencies. Students are then only required to complete the remaining competencies necessary for degree completion.

Can YourPace CBE Save Money?

Yes. Students can enroll in as many courses as they can complete per eight-week session at a $1,400 flat-rate tuition. This differs from the traditional model of setting tuition for a course or by credit hour.

The faster a student advances by proving competency in each course, the faster they complete their degree, often in as few as 12 months. Due to this unique model, each additional course that a student completes in a single session lowers the total cost of the degree.

What Do Employers Think of CBE Degrees?

YourPace students earn bachelor’s degrees in high-demand professions ranging from business administration, accounting and professional communication to liberal arts studies with minors in management information systems, project management and education.

According to research published in the Wiley Online Library, employers value applicants’ CBE education credentials because employers have a voice in identifying the skills and competencies needed in the workforce.

“We consulted with business and industry leaders to determine what degree programs would most benefit the immediate workforce needs,” says Carolyn Dorsey, Associate Professor of Business, Former Executive Director of UMPI’s YourPace Competency-Based Education.

What Do Students Think of CBE Degrees?

UMPI President Ray Rice says the university established YourPace as a unique academic and administration unit to meet the high demand of working adults.

“Learners are now more desirous of programs that meet the needs of the workplace and domestic/personal situations — not ones in which they need to adapt to the patterns and structure of a traditional curriculum,” Rice noted in The Job: Higher Ed & the Workforce e-newsletter.

Recent program graduate, Jason Ennis, appreciated the program’s flexibility and pace and said, “Quite honestly, I doubt I would ever have gotten a degree if the YourPace program wasn’t available in the way that the program is structured.”

How Does YourPace CBE Support Students?

YourPace matches students with an Academic Success Coach who initially helps them develop an educational plan that supports their interests, skills and demonstrated competencies. From then until graduation, the coach serves as a pro-active, student-centric resource and mentor who uses weekly contact via telephone, video conference and email to help students navigate the YourPace platform and university services.

Learn more about the University of Maine Presque Isle’s YourPace online CBE degree program.

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