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Senator Hassan and Representative Neguse Introduce Legislation to Support Innovative Competency-Based Education Programs in Higher Education

WASHINGTON – As Congress works to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Representative Joe Neguse (D-CO) today introduced bicameral legislation to support innovative competency-based education programs at colleges and universities.

Competency-based education programs provide students with pathways to degrees through the mastery of relevant skills rather than through the traditional accumulation of credit hours. This allows students the flexibility to balance their studies with work and family obligations, as well as the opportunity for accelerated learning that can save students time and money. The Advancing Competency-Based Education Act that Senator Hassan and Representative Neguse introduced today would help higher education programs establish and grow competency-based education programs to serve more students.

“From moms and dads with parenting obligations, to students working two or three jobs, education programs that help students achieve their degree in a way that works for their schedules are critical,” Senator Hassan said. “This legislation would support competency-based education programs that give students the flexibility that they need to complete their degree and learn the skills that will help them succeed in the workforce.”

“Competency based education allows students to earn credit for the skills they have, rather than just how long they spend in the classroom,” said Congressman Joe Neguse. “This program ensures that today’s students are offered the flexibility and opportunity necessary to succeed in the classroom and in the 21st century economy.”

“At SNHU, competency-based education has helped put high quality and affordable education within reach for more students. This bill will advance innovative ways to help more students succeed while also demonstrating the positive impact of alternative learning pathways.  We commend Senator Hassan for her leadership and commitment to supporting students and innovation in higher education.” said Paul LeBlanc, President, SNHU.

Along with Southern New Hampshire University, the Advancing Competency-Based Education Act is also supported by the Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN), New America, Jobs for the Future, Colorado State University-Global (CSU-Global), Higher Learning Advocates, Capella, Salt Lake Community College, and Western Governors University (WGU).

The Advancing Competency-Based Education Act would:


  • Create a competency-based education demonstration project within the Higher Education Act to allow higher education institutions to request additional flexibility from current statutory and regulatory requirements that can be barriers to implementing competency-based education programs.


  • Increase transparency in competency-based education programs by requiring an annual evaluation of each competency-based education program in the demonstration project to determine program quality, student degree completion rates, and program graduates’ employment outcomes. 


  • Track outcomes of students served in competency-based education programs compared to their peers who complete traditional academic programs.


  • Prepare students for the workforce by requiring programs to align their courses with career pathways and the needs of local employers.


  • Establish a Competency-Based Education Council to make recommendations and report on how best to support and responsibly scale the development of competency-based education.

Senator Hassan recently led a roundtable discussion at Southern New Hampshire University on the importance of competency-based education. This spring, Senator Hassan introduced bipartisan legislation that would reform the under-utilized experimental sites authorized by the Higher Education Act, encouraging innovation in institutions of higher education to better the student experience.