College, on Your Own

Competency-based education can help motivated students. But critics say it’s no panacea.

College,  On Your Own 1

Laura Segall for The Chronicle

Nichele Pollock, a student in Northern Arizona U.’s competency-based bachelor’s-degree program, takes a Spanish exam online.

Nichele L. Pollock felt like she was moving through college in slow motion. In seven years, she had gotten about halfway through her bachelor’s degree.

But recently she’s been racing forward, racking up 50 credits in just eight months at Northern Arizona University, more than most full-time students earn in three semesters. She’s done it while holding down a full-time job coordinating clinical