Experience Matters: Why Competency-Based Education Will Not Replace Seat Time

Association of American Colleges and Universities
There is a growing trend in higher education to offer college credit for “prior learning” and demonstrated competence. In one of the highest profile speeches of his tenure as secretary of education, Arne Duncan (2011) praised giving college credit for what students know instead of “seat time.” President Barack Obama has also spoken in favor of competency-based programs in his proposals to reform higher education (White House Office of the Press Secretary 2013). The Department of Education is actively encouraging colleges to offer competency-based programs (Field 2013). Given the rising cost of tuition—caused in large part because of public defunding—President Obama and Secretary Duncan applaud any approach that will bring down the amount students and their parents have to pay or, more important, borrow, while also increasing the number of Americans with college degrees.