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Competency-Based Learning is the Future of Higher Education

Aug 29, 2018

For those of you who are not familiar with CBE, it reimagines higher education by measuring actual learning – that is, competency – rather than merely time spent in a seat.

by WGU Texas Chancellor Steven Johnson

WGU Texas was thrilled this year when the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) Baccalaureate/Graduate Degree Board of Commissioners awarded accreditation to our bachelor's and master's degree programs in our College of Business.

This is fantastic news for the 4,600 business students WGU Texas is currently preparing to enter the Texas workforce, and great news for the other 5,000-plus students we serve, as well. In meeting these rigorous ACBSP standards, WGU demonstrated that online, competency-based education (CBE) is not only an effective academic model – but also one of high standards and worthy of emulation.


For those of you who are not familiar with CBE, it reimagines higher education by measuring actual learning – that is, competency – rather than merely time spent in a seat. CBE recognizes adults have different levels of knowledge and learn at different rates. Rather than enrolling in semester-long courses with fixed schedules, students advance through courses as quickly as they can demonstrate mastery of the material.

CBE is an ideal fit for adult learners, who come to college with different learning styles, existing  responsibilities and obligations, and a wide array of knowledge and skills. Students study and learn on a schedule that best fits their lives – with regular one-to-one instruction by course faculty and ongoing support from a program mentor who stays with them throughout their academic journey at WGU Texas.

Our programs and courses are designed with ongoing input from academic and industry leaders to ensure their relevance to employers and the specialized needs of a changing workforce. WGU’s defining principle is a focus on the student—every WGU initiative is evaluated and prioritized based on its impact on student success.

The efficacy of WGU’s learning model and student focus is demonstrated in results—a graduation rate significantly higher than other institutions serving adult learners; student, graduate, and employer satisfaction levels that outpace the national average; dramatically lower student debt levels, which continue to decrease annually; and better employment outcomes for our graduates.

Any university would want a list of accolades like that. We are proud of our innovative model and the high rates of student success that it helps to produce. Our competency-based education model isn’t for everyone—no academic model is—but we are confident in ours.

According to a 2018 Gallup report:

  • The full-time employment rate of WGU graduates exceeds that of graduates nationally, graduates of public and private not-for-profit universities and other nontraditional graduates by almost 20 percentage points, on average.
  • Two-thirds of WGU graduates strongly agree that they had a mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams — a rate substantially higher than that of graduates from comparison group institutions.
  • 72 percent of WGU graduates strongly agree that their education was worth the cost, a percentage that more than doubles that of private not-for-profit graduates who say the same (31 percent).
  • 74 percent of WGU graduates say they are extremely likely to recommend the university to their family, friends, and colleagues.
  • The 69 percent of WGU graduates who strongly agree that WGU was the perfect school for people like them surpasses — by 33 percentage points, on average — the percentage of their comparison group peers who hold the same view.

Thousands of WGU Texas students are getting the opportunity to rewrite their stories thanks to our 21st century approach to higher education: technology working for the student, innovative approaches to when and where a student takes a course and how soon he or she completes it, and a mentorship model that is essential to the success of our students, now, and in the future.

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