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Aaron Lacey, Chris Murray author paper on regulatory hurdles for competency-based education

May 15, 2015

Aaron Lacey
Aaron Lacey
Chris Murray
Chris Murray

Thompson Coburn higher education attorneys Aaron Lacey and Chris Murray have co-authored a paper on the current regulatory challenges facing competency-based education (CBE) and possible regulatory strategies that can better accommodate and evaluate the growing number of CBE programs across the country.

Their paper, “Rethinking the Regulatory Environment of Competency-Based Education,” was released May 15 by the American Enterprise Institute’s Center on Higher Education Reform, which commissioned a series of papers to examine various aspects of competency-based education.

CBE models, already offered at a number of higher education institutions, award credit based on student learning, not time spent in class. When a student can demonstrate mastery of a particular set of competencies, he or she can move on to the next set.

Despite the well-documented benefits of these innovative programs, which have the potential to deliver a more effective educational experience at a lower cost, CBE organizers face “regulatory barriers that not only fail to encourage competency-based learning but in fact impede its progress,” Aaron and Chris write.

Their paper examines current or proposed regulatory frameworks for the management of competency-based programming at the state, accreditor, and federal levels. They also recommend strategies for improving state, accreditor, and federal oversight of CBE programming, including the possible formation of an independent advisory body to review such CBE programs across the country and provide clear, detailed, and coordinated recommendations to all levels of government.

“There is little question that competency-based programs have the potential to lower education costs, facilitate access for underrepresented communities, and produce highly qualified graduates,” they write. “But there are certain preconditions for competency-based programs to fulfill such promise, including the need for postsecondary regulators to develop frameworks that permit programs to evolve and flourish, all while ensuring adequate and appropriate oversight.”

For the paper, Aaron and Chris met and interviewed numerous higher-education academics, administrators, regulators, and policy experts and conducted a thorough examination of pertinent postsecondary statutes, regulations, and standards.

Aaron Lacey is a partner in the higher education practice at Thompson Coburn LLP, where he advises clients on the wide range of federal, state, and accrediting agency laws and standards that govern postsecondary institutions, including the Title IV federal financial aid programs.

Chris Murray is a founding partner of Thompson Coburn LLP’s Lobbying & Policy group, which focuses on the political and regulatory issues affecting the education sector. He has extensive experience representing institutions, associations, and companies related to eLearning, Title IV program compliance, medical education, federal workforce and military education programs, education technology, international trade, and accreditation.