40 Schools that Offer Competency-Based Degrees

Competency Based Education has been called the disruption of the moment and characterized as something that will always be “just around the corner.” However, the explosive growth of alternative ideas for higher education, coupled with pressure from foundations and state governments, is forcing universities to reimagine the criteria for degrees and some schools are already thinking that competency-based education’s time has come.

Community Colleges

  • Delaware County Community College The Pennsylvania-based community college offers online, competency-based classes that allow students to complete an associate degree by showing mastery of 11 general education competencies—such as being proficient in mathematics, having a nature of self, and being able to use decision making processes to solve problems.
  • Rio Salado College The Tucson, Ariz.-based school uses an electronic portfolio assessment tool developed by the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning to award credit to online and residential students. The program, called LearningCounts, was developed by the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning and requires students to create electronic portfolios that are assessed by faculty members from across the U.S. Each portfolio is examined to determine if a student’s on-the-job learning, corporate training, independent study, military, or volunteer service match the requirements for certain courses.
  • Oregon Consortium For Nursing Education A partnership of 13 community colleges, public, and private university schools of nursing that has developed a common competency-based curriculum used by online and residential students looking to attain either an associate or bachelor’s in nursing.
  • Sinclair Community College Dayton-based Sinclair Community College led a consortium of four colleges thatrecently received a $12 million Department of Labor grant to develop a competency-based, hybrid approach to computer science education. The curriculum being developed by the various schools’ faculty between the partner institutions and is being designed to allow students to receive stackable credentials.
  • Henry Ford Community College Dearborn, Mich.-based Henry Ford Community College led a consortium of 11 community colleges that received a $15 million Department of Labor grant to establish a competency-based program for manufacturing education in the respective institutions. The new programs are being created to develop industry-driven manufacturing curricula and credentials.
  • Tyler Junior College The Tyler Junior College, based in Tyler, Texas, headed-up a consortium of four schools which received a $12 million Department of Labor grant to build the schools’ capacity to train adult workers in the grocery industry. The training will be developed using competency-based curriculum, which will be connected into horizontal and vertical pathways.

  • Kentucky Community & Technical College System Since 2009, the 16-college, 68-campus Kentucky Community & Technical College System has been offering the competency-based “learn on demand” program which features modular courses, stackable credentials, as well as self-paced elements. While the program was originally designed for adult learners the brevity of the modules, some can be completed in as little as three weeks, have attracted many of the system’s 33,000 online students.
  • Quinsigamond Community College Worcester, Mass.-based Quinsigamond Community College offers a general studies associate degree, which provides students with broad-based academic and employability skills. The general studies program also allows students the option of completing a 36-hour sequence of competency-based courses through University of Massachusetts-Boston’s Center for Occupation Education.
  • Ivy Tech Community College Indianapolis-based Ivy Tech Community College’s human services program is an interdisciplinary competency-based program that offers online students the opportunity to become a human services worker. Students who join the program have the option of pursuing an Associate of Science or an Associate of Applied Science. Students will be guided through a process of self-examination that will utilize ethical and theoretical practices to examine the values and attitudes that are reflected in their interactions with others.

  • Houston Community College –Northwest College Houston Community College-Northwest College’s business technology program provides student the opportunity to develop the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary for attaining an administrative assistant and other positions. To help students receive the proper training the program utilizes a competency-based curriculum.
  • South Plains College South Plains College uses a mix of competency-based and time-based metrics to insure that both residential and online students are proficient in Texas’ general education core curriculum which includes reading, writing, and fundamental mathematical skills.
  • Mott Community College Flint, Mich.-based Mott Community College utilizes a competency-based approach for the Associate of Applied Science in early childhood education. The program focuses on the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s standards for associate degree programs. Enrollment in the program requires current Child Abuse/Neglect Central Registry (CA/NR) clearance from the Michigan Department of Human Services.
  • Northwestern Arkansas Community College Bentonville, Ark. –based Northwestern Arkansas Community College offers a competency-based approach to nursing education that trains students as generalists to provide direct care to clients that are having common, recurring health problems with predictable outcomes. Students are exposed to numerous healthcare areas such as obstetrics, pediatrics, critical care, dialysis, gerontology, medical-surgical, psychiatric, and community-based.
  • Mount Aloysius College Cresson, Pa.-based Mount Aloysius College offers a competency-based approach to an Associate of Applied Sciences in radiologic science. The curriculum is based on the entry level requirements outlined by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists and includes both professional courses as well as a clinical education that places an emphasis on liberal arts studies.
  • Southwest Florida College Fort Meyers, Fla.-based Southwest Florida College uses a competency-based approach in its medical assistant degree program which focuses on fundamental medical courses, such as anatomy and physiology, and includes clinical procedures and pharmacology. The classes expose students to both administrative and clinical aspects of the modern healthcare environment.
  • Hawaii Community College Hawaii Community College offers two competency-based associate degrees and two competency-based certificates. The degrees and certificates are in information technology and marketing and are designed to provide students with high-demand skills for working in office and retail settings.
  • Missoula College The University of Montana’s Missoula College offers a competency-based Associate of Applied Science degree in carpentry. The curriculum is based on the National Center for Construction Education and Research. While the carpentry degree is not available as online, Missoula College does offer multiple online degrees and certificates. Students interested in carpentry may also consider researching online colleges offering construction management degrees.
  • Bellingham Technical College Based in Bellingham, Wash., Bellingham Technical College offers an Associate in Applied Sciences in operations management is designed for people currently employed in the operations side of a company. The hybrid program utilizes both online and residential classes and is designed to work with the needs of a students’ current employer.
  • University of Massachusetts Boston The University of Massachusetts Boston’s Center for Technical Education offers a sequence of undergraduate competency-based courses designed to satisfy the Massachusetts Department of Education’s 21-credit requirement for a vocational instructor license.
  • Tunxis Community College Since 2004, Tunxis Community College has been using competency-based assessment to award associate degrees. The college requires students to be demonstrate mastery of ten competencies—communication, critical thinking, information literacy, technology literacy, world cultures and perspectives, aesthetic engagement, quantitative reasoning, scientific reasoning, citizenship, values, ethics, teamwork, and interpersonal skills. Many of Tunxis’ classes can be completed either completely online or in a hybrid fashion.
  • Four-year Colleges and Universities

    Four-year schools’ approach to competency-based education ranges from requiring students to display mastery of certain skills or virtues to recreating classes as self-paced modules. Many schools that require mastery of ‘virtue competencies’ embed them within traditional classes and use the classes to meet the virtue requirements.

  • University of Maryland University College The University of Maryland University College redesigned much of its curriculum in 2010 to more focus on program outcomes—key skills that employers expect graduates to have. The university also dramatically increased the amount of courses that were recognized through prior learning assessment.
  • Alverno College Milwaukee-based Alverno College has been using a variation of the competency-based approach since the late 1960s. The school has pioneered an ‘ability-based’ curriculum that requires students be able to demonstrate mastery of communication, analysis, problem solving, valuing, social interaction, developing a global perspective, effective citizenship, and aesthetic engagement. Alverno’s unique approach gives students opportunities to demonstrate learning at it applies to their lives.
  • Michigan State University In 2010, Michigan State University launched a competency-based minor in sustainability. The program relies heavily on portfolio assessment and requires students “achieve wholeness and balance in terms of synthetic and integrative learning.” Students are required to demonstrate mastery of eight competency areas: personal development, critical thinking, civic engagement, systems thinking, social equity, economic vitality, ecological integrity, and aesthetic understanding.
  • Brandman University Formerly Chapman University College, Brandman University launched a three-part competency framework in 2011. The framework is broken into broad integrative knowledge requirements, university degree qualifications, and disciplinary skill requirements.
  • Tusculum College Like other schools on this list, Greenville, Tenn.-based Tusculum College includes mastery of ‘virtue competencies’ as a way to improve student learning and inspire civic engagement within students. The school also uses the competency assessment as a way to evaluate faculty performance.
  • Marylhurst University Located in Lake Oswego, Ore., Marylhurst University, a private Catholic liberal arts university, utilizes an outcome-based curriculum which allows students to fulfill many of their degree requirements with prior learning assessment exams and transfer courses.
  • Westminster College In 2008, Salt Lake City-based Westminster College established a competency-based bachelor’s degree in business. The program is designed to appeal to students with an associate degree, or equivalent, and uses a project-based curriculum to help students master 70 competencies.
  • Southern New Hampshire University Southern New Hampshire University began offering online courses in 1996 and used the experience to redesign education so that a bachelor’s degree can be completed in three years instead of four. An integral part of that redesign was switching from time-based metrics to competency-based metrics. SNHU recently received approval to directly assess students’ competencies, making it the school is the first in the nation to do away with credits.
  • Western Governors University With more than 35,000 enrolled students Western Governors University is the largest competency-based university in the U.S. It allows students to complete a degree without ever attending a class. The university also offers both bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
  • Depaul University School for New Learning Founded in 1972 as Depaul University’s individualized competency-based, liberal education college for adult learners, the School of New Learning offers multiple undergraduate and graduate degree programs that utilize various curricular models. However, competency-based programs remain the signature of the School of New Learning. Many degree programs can be completed either entirely online or in a blend of online and on-campus courses.
  • Excelsior College Albany, N.Y.-based Excelsior College utilizes a competency-based approach that relies heavily on the school’s proprietary Excelsior College Examinations. Students can also receive credit through UExcel exams and a portfolio assessment program.
  • New Orleans Baptist Theological SeminaryThe New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary utilizes a virtue competency-based curriculum that seeks to impress upon students the importance of eight key values, which range from biblical exposition to character formation.
  • Northern Arizona University Northern Arizona University recently launched three online competency-based degree programs in computer information technology, business with a specialization in small business, and liberal studies. The programs have been developed in partnership with education services provider Pearson and begin educating students in January 2013.
  • Norhteastern Illinois University Northeastern Illinois University’s university without walls program uses prior learning assessment to provide academic recognition for students’ college-equivalent knowledge and skills. The program also uses virtue competencies that are designed to ensure that students have exposure to a variety of academic areas of concentration.
  • University of Wisconsin The University of Wisconsin System recently launched four online competency-based degrees. The university is offering four degree programs—two nursing degrees, a bachelor’s degree completion program in diagnostic imaging, and a Bachelor’s of Science in Information Science and Technology—and a certificate in professional and technical communication. The general education requirements are being developed by UW colleges and will award students with an Associate of Arts and Sciences degree while they pursue a four-year degree. The program will begin enrolling students in Fall 2013.
  • University of Washington The University of Washington has partnered with Harborview Medical Center to offer a competency-based Bachelor of Paramedicine. The degree integrates advanced EMS training into higher education in an attempt to create more comprehensive training. The competency-based nature of the program requires that students master each of the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor learning domain building blocks before moving on to the next level.
  • Graduate Programs

  • Thomas Jefferson University School of Public Health The Thomas Jefferson school of public health offers a Master of Public Health degree that utilizes virtue competencies to help students become familiar with key elements of public health.
  • Georgia College Georgia College offers a competency-based Master of Music Education degree that is designed to allow students continue to develop as musicians and to expand the study of children and adolescents’ musical development.
  • New York Institute of Technology The New York Institute of Technology’s school of education offers a competency-based Master of Science degree in school counseling. The program utilizes value competencies designed by the Council on the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Programs to guide students through their studies and requires students to demonstrate professional school counseling, consultation, and leadership throughout their assignments.
  • University of Houston-Clear Lake The University of Houston-Clear Lake offers a competency-based Master of Arts degree in human resource management. The program requires students demonstrate mastery of 84 virtue competencies in five different clusters in order to graduate.
  • Unviersity of Georgia Graduate School The University of Georgia’s graduate school offers competency-based Master of Education degree with a special education focus. The degree prepares teachers to confront the unique situations that come from educating special needs students by requiring the mastery of various virtue and subject competencies.
  • University of Michigan School of Public Health The University of Michigan School of Public Health offers a Master of Public Health that is geared towards people currently working the public health field. Students are “expected to meet minimum requirements for a basic set of competencies through prior experience.”
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