Outcomes of Competency-Based Education in Community Colleges: Summative Findings from the Evaluation of a TAACCCT Grant

Outcomes of Competency-Based Education in Community Colleges: Summative Findings from the Evaluation of a TAACCCT Grant

Published: Sep 30, 2016
Publisher: Oakland, CA: Mathematica Policy Research
Associated Project

Hand in Hand: Community Colleges Help Build Career Pathways for Dislocated and Low-Skilled Workers

Time frame: 2012-2017

Prepared for:

U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration


Ann E. Person

Jaime Thomas

Alexander Johann

Nikhail Maestas

Key Findings

Key Findings:

  • Consortium-wide, 35 percent of participants completed a grant-funded program of study, including IT industry certification preparatory courses, college certificates, and associate’s degrees.
  • Participants completed programs quickly, taking, on average, less than two terms to complete their first industry certification preparatory course and approximately four terms to complete certificates and degrees.
  • Participants’ employment rates started and remained high, and wages for employed participants increased after program enrollment at a higher rate than the national average.
  • Gatekeeper course completion rates were slightly lower for participants than for comparison students while, differences in participants’ and nonparticipants’ credential completion rates varied by college and may reflect unobservable differences between the groups.
Competency-based education models allow students to move through material independently, advancing when they demonstrate content mastery. Proponents of competency-based approaches view them as a potential solution to student demand for flexible, career-relevant programs and to employer demand for skilled workers. This report presents summative findings from the evaluation of online, competency-based information technology programs offered by a consortium of three community colleges under a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant program. The report describes program participants’ education and employment outcomes and compares these outcomes to those of students enrolled in traditional online and brick-and-mortar information technology programs at the same colleges. It concludes with a discussion of the implications of the evaluation findings for the ongoing public conversation around competency-based education, especially its application in community college contexts. 

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