U.S. Representative Jared Polis

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Polis, Messer introduce legislation to expand affordable higher education model

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Washington, June 8, 2017 | comments
WASHINGTON: Today, Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Rep. Luke Messer, R-Ind., introduced bipartisan legislation to expand an innovative higher education model that allows students to attain a degree in less time and at a lower cost.
The Advancing Competency-Based Education Act of 2017 creates a demonstration project to provide new flexibility for competency-based education programs, while at the same time establishing new levels of transparency and accountability.
Competency-based education awards credit based on demonstrable knowledge, as opposed to the traditional higher education model that is based on time in the classroom. 
"Nowadays more and more college students are older, returning for a degree after years in the workforce, and pursuing their studies while working full-time simultaneously. That’s why with the input of forward-thinking schools, like CSU-Global, this legislation will allow more students to get credit for what they know, rather than how much time they spend in the classroom. Competency-based education thinks outside the box; students can move through their degree by demonstrating that they’ve mastered the necessary skills. For today’s students, this provides exactly the kind of flexibility they need," said Polis.
"Many institutions in Indiana are leading the way, providing flexible and effective education models to reach more students," Messer said. "This legislation will encourage more innovation in higher education and help better equip Americans with the skills needed to succeed in today's workforce."
"Since our founding by 19 U.S. governors 20 years ago, we have focused on using innovation to expand access to high-quality higher education for busy adults. Competency-based education meets students’ needs for flexibility by keeping the standards for learning constant while letting the time vary,” says Scott Pulsipher, President of nonprofit Western Governors University (WGU). “Students study and progress on their own schedules and earn their degrees as soon as they demonstrate mastery of the subject matter. WGU's 82,000 graduates, who report higher satisfaction, employment rates, and career readiness than the national average, are proof that competency-based education works. We applaud Congressmen Polis and Messer for taking the lead, and we look forward to working with them in creating a legislative environment that fully supports development of CBE programs and fosters continuous innovation in higher education."
The Advancing Competency-Based Education Act of 2017 does the following:
  • Promotes innovation in higher education by allowing competency-based education programs in the demonstration project to request additional flexibility from current statutory and regulatory requirements that are current barriers to implementation.
  • Increases transparency by requiring an annual evaluation of each competency-based education program in the demonstration project to determine program quality, the progress of participating students towards earning a degree, and a students’ ability to pay off their loans and find employment upon graduation.
  • Provides new information about the students being served in competency-based education programs and how their success compares to similar students in traditional programs.
  • Creates new accountability for competency-based education programs by requiring an institution’s accreditation agency to set standards for competency-based education programs.
Establishes a Competency-Based Education Council to continue studying the ongoing innovation and development of competency-based education.

A one-pager of the bill can be found here, and a section-by-section summary can be found here.
Polis serves on the Committee on Education and the Workforce.  He is the top-Democrat on the Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee and a member of the Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee.  Polis is the former chair of the Colorado State Board of Education, and the founder and former superintendent of The New America School - a network of charters schools in several states serving new immigrants and English-language learners - as well as the Academy for Urban Learning for homeless and at-risk youth. The district he represents today includes Colorado State University and University of Colorado.
Messer is the chair of the House Republican Policy Committee and serves on the Committee on Education and the Workforce. He is also the Co-Chair of the Congressional E-Learning Caucus and formed the Congressional School Choice Caucus, which is dedicated to expanding educational freedom and promoting policies that increase high-quality education options for all children. As a state legislator and congressman, Messer has consistently fought to ensure children—regardless of their parents’ income or zip code—have the same opportunity to get the best possible education.
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Tags: Education

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