The U.S. Education Department is cracking open the door to federal financial aid for students enrolled in nontraditional education programs — and trying out alternatives to accreditation in the process.
On Wednesday the department will announce a pilot program that will allow federal grants and loans to flow to educational-technology companies that team up with colleges and third-party “quality-assurance entities” to offer coding boot camps, MOOCs, short-term certificates, and other credentials.
The experiment has two chief aims: to make nontraditional programs more accessible to low-income students, and to test new ways of measuring program quality that are based on students’ outcomes.
Under the plan, the new quality-assurance entities would be responsible for assessing participants’ claims about students’ outcomes, including learning and employment.
But the pilot doesn’t ditch traditional accreditation altogether. “To reassure everyone who might be concerned” about leaving quality assurance to untested entities, the colleges’ current accreditors would have to sign off on the arrangements as well, said Paul J. LeBlanc, president of Southern New Hampshire University, who worked on the pilot during a recent stint at the department. He noted that accreditors could create new quality-assurance entities too. <Read more.>