The White House Recommendations for Lowering Tuition Costs That are Currently Standard Practice at Excelsior College

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Today, President Obama announced his “Making College More Affordable: A Better Bargain for the Middle Class” proposal, an attempt to “shake-up” higher education and the financial aid process.

According to the White House, President Obama is “challenging” individual colleges to combat two sides of the iron triangle, cost and quality.

“We commend President Obama for placing his focus on higher education and tackling these core issues,” said Dr. John Ebersole, Excelsior College President. “However, as it always is, the devil is in the details. So we’ll have to wait and see.”

In fact, four key areas outlined in the White House Fact Sheet are standard practice at Excelsior.

Award Credits Based on Learning, not Seat Time.

In addition to its online courses, Excelsior has a credit-by-examination program, UExcel, that focuses on the outcomes of learning – what students know, not where or how they learned it – and provides a means for students to demonstrate that the knowledge they have gained outside a formal classroom is college-level equivalent. These exams are developed by faculty from across the nation and by passing them students earn credit which is reported on an official Excelsior College transcript.

Use Technology for Student Services.  Online learning communities and e-advising tools encourage persistence and alert instructors when additional help is needed.

Excelsior recently received a grant from the Gates Foundation that will support the creation of the next generation of courses that integrate adaptive learning technologies intended to enhance student success.

Recognize Prior Learning and Promote Dual Enrollment. Colleges can also award credit for prior learning experiences, similar to current Administration efforts to recognize the skills of returning veterans. 

In the 2012-2013 academic year alone, Excelsior accepted in transfer about 671,000 hours of undergraduate credit from over 15,000 newly enrolled students that had been earned elsewhere. This saved $390 million for these students, their families and benefactors (federal and state sponsored programs) by not requiring students to pay a second time for competencies they had already demonstrated. This removes a potentially significant barrier to degree completion.

Reduce Regulatory Barriers: The Department will use its authority to issue regulatory waivers for “experimental sites” that promote high-quality, low-cost innovations in higher education, such as making it possible for students to get financial aid based on how much they learn, rather than the amount of time they spend in class.

Tuition for a 3-credit-hour online course at Excelsior in Introduction to Microeconomics is $1,275.  Students taking the College’s proficiency examination in Microeconomics, at secure facilities across the nation, earn the same 3-credits at a cost of $95.

“Why does Title IV pay for the more expensive course but not the lesser cost of a proficiency exam,” asked William Stewart, assistant vice president for Institutional Advancement at Excelsior College.