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California colleges imagine a world where degrees come without classes

The new programs are designed with working adults in mind, providing more flexibility and the possibility of earning a degree faster.
California colleges imagine a world where degrees come without classes
Posted at 3:22 PM, Sep 13, 2023

What if you could earn a college degree without ever having to go to class? 

That’s a new approach several community colleges in California will be testing out in the near future. 

Instead of spending hours in a classroom and being graded on assignments, students would be tested to prove they have the relevant skills needed for the degree they are after. 

For these California colleges in particular, it’s designed with working adults in mind, providing more flexibility and the possibility of earning a degree faster for those already in the workforce, according to CalMatters.  

It’s called competency-based education (CBE), but the concept isn’t something new. According to U.S. News and World Report, the learning model has been around for decades. 

SEE MORE: Giving grades an F? Some schools ditch traditional grades

There are many colleges and schools that have already implemented some sort of competency-based program. 

Nearly 500 colleges and universities across the country were surveyed by the American Institutes for Research about their use of CBE in 2020. The survey found that 13% were already offering at least one degree or certificate through the learning model. 

Eight California community colleges were given funding in 2021 to design a single associate degree program using CBE, which would set them apart from two-year institutions across the country.  

While still in the works, those potential degrees cover a variety of fields including early childhood education, business administration and automotive technology. 

However, launching the programs hasn’t come without issues. Most criticism and concerns come from faculty who are concerned how it might impact their pay, which is based on lecture hours, and intellectual property. 


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