WASHINGTON, July 22, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- New findings from an annual survey on competency-based education (CBE) suggests continued growth and interest in the flexible, workforce-aligned model. CBE ties learning to competencies based on the actual development of knowledge and skills, rather than seat time. The 2020 National Survey of Postsecondary Competency-Based Education (NSPCBE), conducted during a period of unprecedented disruption in higher education due to COVID-19, received responses from 488 institutions. This was the third annual survey, which is administered by the American Institutes for Research.

The results, released by AIR today, found that more than 82% of respondents expect CBE to grow nationally over the next five years. Following the disruptions of 2020, respondents cited a perception of a long-term shift in the higher education landscape and the belief that CBE can help institutions respond to future disruptions or uncertainties as having an impact on their motivation to adopt CBE.

"This study found that institutions expect CBE to keep growing nationally, and they see it as a useful tool as they think about the future of higher education," said report author Kelle Parsons, senior researcher at AIR. "Many colleges are optimistic that CBE can play a role in solving many of the core challenges of higher education, including access and equity, completion, cost, and quality."

The survey was conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused a significant enrollment decline at many institutions throughout the country, with over 13% fewer first-time students and nearly 30% fewer Black, Hispanic and Native American first-time students at community colleges in fall 2020. But many institutions with existing CBE programs reported that their programs actually saw increased enrollment over the last year.

"CBE has been a win-win for everyone involved," said Ray Rice, president of University of Maine at Presque Isle. "It serves working adults who aspire to a degree but need self-paced programs to fit their schedules, it enables employers to hire workers with verified competencies and credentials, and it helped our university grow enrollment despite a pandemic and demographic declines."

The report comes as the pandemic has accelerated a shift in the workforce toward skills-based hiring. LinkedIn has reported a 21% increase in job postings based on skills and responsibilities and a nearly 40% increase in jobs that don't require a degree. Institutions are seeking to keep up with these changes, as their top two motivations for adopting CBE were improving learning outcomes and responding to workforce needs.

"The events of the past year have clearly demonstrated the importance and necessity of postsecondary education as a change lever to achieve economic advancement," said Charla Long, executive director of C-BEN. "We are excited to see growing interest from institutions in competency-based education as a learner-centric model that can position them to deliver the future of higher education."

For more information on the 2020 National Survey of Postsecondary Competency-Based Education, visit https://cberesearch.org/resources-and-publications#publications 

About AIR
The American Institutes for Research is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance to solve some of the most urgent challenges in the U.S. and around the world. We advance evidence in the areas of education, health, the workforce, human services, and international development to create a better, more equitable world. The AIR family of organizations now includes IMPAQ, Maher & Maher, and Kimetrica. For more information, visit www.air.org.

About C-BEN
C-BEN is a network of institutions, employers, and experts who believe competencies can unlock the future of learning — making postsecondary education and training more flexible, responsive, and valuable. We support stakeholders across the spectrum of competency-based learning, from institutions and employers who want to embed competencies into their existing programs to those looking to design full competency-based degree programs from the ground up. Across all our work, our aim is to make education and training more flexible, responsive, and valuable. For more information, visit www.cbenetwork.org.

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SOURCE American Institutes for Research; C-BEN

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