Senator Collins Commends UMPI Competency-Based Education Program

Click HERE to watch Senator Collins’ Q&A with hearing witness

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Washington, D.C. – The Senate Education Committee held a hearing today titled, “Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Access and Innovation.”  This was the third in a series of hearings the Committee is holding to examine key higher education policy issues in preparation for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA).


During the hearing, U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Education Committee, discussed the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s Competency-Based Education (CBE) Bachelor of Business Administration degree program, the first public university in New England to offer this kind of program. 


“The goal of this program is to give individuals with some college experience and credit a pathway to complete their degree,” said Senator Collins. “With 53 percent of the students who have enrolled in this competency-based program being between the ages of 40 and 65 years old, the University of Maine at Presque Isle is successfully reaching an older population and giving them the skills that they need to pursue higher education.”


Senator Collins pressed the panel on what types of reforms could be made to the Higher Education Act to ensure CBE programs maintain their high quality.


Dr. Deborah Bushway, a consultant for the Competency-Based Education Network at Northwestern Health Sciences University, emphasized the importance of collecting data to ensure CBE programs maintain high standards.


“In traditional education, student pass through courses in which assignments are…averaged across different aspects,” said Dr. Bushway.  “In CBE programs, you have to demonstrate a high level of competency in each individual competency, which is what makes it much more rigorous.  As we move forward, we have to maintain a definition of quality, and those quality indicators have to be rooted in student outcomes: learning outcomes and longer term outcomes for those students.” 


Witnesses testifying at today’s hearing:


  • Joe May, Chancellor, Dallas County Community College District, Dallas, TX
  • Donna Linderman, University Dean for Student Success Initiatives, City University of New York, New York, NY
  • Barbara Brittingham, President, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education, New England Association of Schools and College, Burlington, MA
  • Deborah Bushway, Consultant, Competency-Based Education Network, Provost, Northwestern Health Sciences University, Bloomington, MN
  • Michael Larsson, President, Match Beyond, Boston, MA


Click HERE to read the witnesses’ testimonies.