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Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act of 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. GEORGE MILLER of California. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I thank him for all of his work on this legislation and joining Mr. Salmon in an effort to bring this to the floor. I thank both of them for reaching agreement on this. I also thank the chair of the committee, Mrs. Brooks, and Mr. Tierney on our side, for this opportunity to vote on this legislation.

We have made a promise to America's students. We have said that we will make the cost of a college education affordable and accessible. With that comes another promise--the promise that when a student graduates with a college degree in hand, they will have the skills to succeed in the workplace and in the economy.

But the traditional college degree has not changed since the 1800s, as my colleagues have pointed out, despite dramatic changes for businesses and the workforce. We all know that a good middle class job requires some college education and training. And today, as most workers move from job to job more frequently, they need to tap new skills to keep up with the demands of emerging industries.

Despite the changing workforce needs, college credit is earned based upon the hours spent sitting in the classroom, not on the knowledge or the skills earned. Today, the Congress has an opportunity to vote for a new competency-based education model so we can flip the old model on its head.

This model is an opportunity for American students to access a high-quality education in a new way. And through technology and the Internet, this model becomes more user friendly and affordable for families.

I want to thank my colleague, Mr. Tierney, for his dedication on this issue. Mr. Tierney and I spent many hours with the leaders of this movement to understand how the Federal Government can support these innovative programs--and, in some cases, where we can just get out of the way and let schools innovate.

In particular, I would like to thank the Lumina Foundation, New America, Southern New Hampshire

University, Capella University, Cal State University, Open Learning Initiative, and San Jose State for their expertise on these programs.

This demonstration program makes sense because we need to test these innovations before we can make significant commitments of new Federal investments.

Specifically, this bill gives colleges a chance to create competency-based programs to help students succeed by measuring what they know and not solely the number of hours that they spent in the classroom.

Under this legislation, students will still learn the basic academic work, but this model allows them to become proficient at their own pace, potentially shortening the time it takes to earn a degree.

For the returning veteran, this could mean her Army medic skills are more easily transferred to an RN degree or some other medical degree. For a self-taught computer programmer, this could mean a computer science degree in a shorter timeframe and at less cost.

Combined with new technology, competency-based education is one of the most promising new innovations to help make college more affordable and more accessible. This is a very good step forward, and I urge the support of this legislation.

I also urge Members to support H.R. 4984, Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act, a bill that would improve counseling on financial aid and student loans so that students can make more informed choices on how to finance their education.

While I support these bills, they are not enough for students already facing a mountain of college debt. I am disappointed that we are not voting today to help student loan borrowers save thousands of dollars and better manage their debt burden through lower interest rates.

My colleague, Congressman Tierney, offered an amendment at the Rules Committee to allow students to refinance student loans and to lock in lower interest rates, just like millions of Americans have been able to do with their mortgages or their car loans.

Unfortunately, the Republican leadership refused to make the Tierney amendment in order, thus blocking a straight up-or-down vote on whether or not to help millions of students and their families reduce their debt.

In closing, I want to thank Chairman Kline and my Republican colleagues for their cooperation and inclusiveness on all of the higher education bills that we are considering this week. I urge my colleagues to support this bill.


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