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2 Texas Colleges Will Offer Competency-Based Hybrid Degree

Texas A&M University at Commerce and South Texas College said Thursday that they are working with Pearson Education to open a competency-based, affordable hybrid degree for Texas students by next spring.

The Texas Affordable Baccalaureate Program is set to offer a 90-credit-hour online program that relies on a competency-based curriculum, according to a news release. Students will earn a degree in organizational leadership. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the nonprofit College for All Texans Foundation have joined to oversee the project.

Van Davis, director of innovations in higher education for the coordinating board, said there are about 3.6 million Texans who have earned college credit but do not have a degree. He said the project aims to help those students complete degrees, as well as to help first-time students who may feel like they may be better served by a go-at-your-own-pace curriculum.

“It’s not designed to keep them chained to a seat,” he said in an interview.

Mr. Davis said the program will use a hybrid model that combines an academic coach—an “academic adviser on steroids,” as he put it—and a competency-based curriculum created by Pearson and the two state institutions. The project allows students to take assessments of their knowledge about particular subjects and then, depending on the results, either prove they’ve mastered the subject or work on areas they’re struggling with.

The curriculum will be offered in seven-week sessions and can be completed as slowly or quickly as a student likes, he said. Each session will cost less than $1,000.

The project is financed by a two-year, $1-million grant through Educause and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In 2012, Gov. Rick Perry encouraged Texas colleges to search for competency-based solutions to compete with the rising cost of traditional higher education as well as improve graduation rates.

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