On the Path to Success: Early Evidence About the Efficacy of Postsecondary Competency-Based Education Programs

Kelle Parsons, Jessica Mason, and Matthew Soldner

Although competency-based education (CBE) programs have existed since the 1970s, they have garnered new interest as a promising innovation to address some of higher education’s most important challenges: cost, quality, access, and success. Better evidence about student outcomes in CBE and how they compare with outcomes in traditional programs is important as institutions and policymakers consider investing in them.

AIR partnered with CBE program leaders and institutional research staff to address the following key questions:

  • Who is enrolling in CBE programs?
  • What outcomes did those students achieve, and how did they compare with students in traditional programs?
  • What data were being used, when gaps existed, and what else would be needed to better address these questions?

Key Findings

Broadly, this brief presents evidence that CBE programs are on the path to success in fulfilling their value propositions of broadening access, offering paths to credentials, and improving cost and quality. This paper presents early findings and outlines the key challenges related to data and measurement in CBE contexts.