The Obama administration is moving ahead with plans to waive certain federal student aid rules for a limited number of colleges that want to experiment with competency-based education and other innovative forms of higher education.
Officials are soliciting suggestions on what those experiments should look like, according to a notice set to be published in the Federal Register this week. The Education Department said it is “particularly interested in experiments that are designed to improve student persistence and academic success, result in shorter time to degree, including by allowing students to advance through educational courses and programs at their own pace by demonstrating academic achievement, and reduce reliance on student loans.”
The department gave three examples of the types of innovations it may approve: competency-based education, dual enrollment of high school students in higher education, and prior learning assessment.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in remarks at a student aid conference Wednesday that the experiments will allow colleges to “pursue responsible innovations to increase college value and affordability.”
The Obama administration first announced in August that it wanted to use its “experimental sites” authority to pilot higher education innovations aimed at lowering costs while maintain quality.
President Obama said in a speech on the economy Wednesday that his administration was “pursuing an aggressive strategy to promote innovation that reins in tuition costs.”
The push for federal funding for higher education innovations has been aggressive elsewhere in Washington as well. Several education foundations and think tanks have embraced alternative models of higher education, and the issue is attracting attention from a growing number of lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
The Education Department said it wants to hear experiment proposals from colleges, businesses, philanthropies and state agencies. The suggestions are due by January 31 of next year.