Starting this fall, some students at the University of Maine at Presque Isle won’t need to worry about how many hours they need to spend in class to graduate. The university announced today that it’s launching an online “competency-based” degree for some of its business students, which will allow them to get a bachelors’ degree at their own pace, and for less than $10,000. The new program is aimed specifically at adults who may have dropped out of college in the past.
More Maine students are graduating high school and going to college today than they were ten years ago. But research shows that almost half don’t complete their degree within six years. That’s left tens of thousands of people in Maine with thousands of dollars in debt but no degree.
Carolyn Dorsey, an associate business professor at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, says the college created a new “competency-based” pathway for its bachelors’ degree in business administration to help these students, who are already in the workforce.
“So this allows people who may be working, very active in the community, in their workspace, but they just don’t have time to get to the classroom,” says Dorsey. “It gives them time to complete.”
Dorsey says under this “competency based” program the college can assess what a student already knows and give them credit for that. And students don’t need a certain number of credits to graduate. Instead, they must complete specific “competencies.”
Dorsey says that allows students to take courses online, at their own pace. And she says the school can charge students a simple fee — $2,000 per semester.
“And that $2000, semester-based tuition is for in-state, out of state, international,” she says. “It’s one rate. We’re keeping it at one flat rate per semester.”
The final cost will vary from student to student. It would cost some students more for their bachelor’s in business administration, if it takes them more semesters to demonstrate competencies.
Competency-based programs have traditionally been offered mostly at for-profit colleges. But after the federal government eased some financial aid rules in 2013, public universities such as the University of Wisconsin began to offer their own competency-based programs.
The University of Maine at Presque Isle says it plans to start with about 50 students in its program come fall. But it hopes to expand to other degrees and majors in the next few years.
This story was originally published Aug. 7, 2017 at 5:02 p.m. ET.