Monday, September 19, 2016

Additional Information on EQUIP/StraighterLine Experimental Project

DCCCD Associate Vice Chancellor of Educational Policy Anna Mays and Brookhaven College President Thom Chesney provided this information to the Sept. 19 meeting of the Chancellors Staff.

EDIT FROM TUESDAY, SEPT. 20: See this link from the U.S. Department of Education, and this story from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Through the U.S. Department of Education’s Educational Quality through Innovative Partnerships (EQUIP) experiment, the Secretary of the Department of Education will provide a limited waiver of the financial aid requirements, under the Higher Education Act of 1965, that an ineligible institution or organization cannot provide 50 percent or more of a title IV-eligible educational program, and that an eligible program must be provided by a participating institution. For this experiment the Secretary will also waive, as needed, other requirements related to the minimum timeframes for eligible programs and the timeframe and method of calculating a student’s academic progress.

The last decade has seen the emergence of innovations in technology, pedagogy and business models both within and outside of the accredited higher education sector. By creating a pathway to financial aid for students desiring to access programs offered by “non-traditional” providers, goals such as increased equity and access, more flexible and personalized learning and the reduction of costs can be achieved.

The EQUIP Experimental Site Initiative was announced on 10/20/15 and DCCCD was invited to apply.  Dr. May, Dr. Figueroa and all DCCCD College Presidents agreed that the intent to apply be submitted to the Department of Education (12/15), with all College Presidents notifying SACSCOC of the intent to apply (3/16), and the final application was submitted in April, 2016.  DCCCD College Presidents were notified of their acceptance to participate in the Experimental Site Initiative 8/16/16.
Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD) and StraighterLine (SL), monitored by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation’s (CHEA) Quality Platform, will jointly partner to offer students a pathway to complete two popular Associate degrees:  Associate in Science (Business Concentration) and Associate in Arts (Criminal Justice Concentration).

Through the EQUIP Experimental Site program, students will be able to use Pell Grants and eligible federal loans to pay for the programs. With joint and independent marketing efforts from DCCCD and StraighterLine, it is expected that 600 students a year will enroll in the program by the end of the experimental period, starting in Summer or Fall, 2017.  As a veteran quality assurance entity, CHEA’s Quality Platform will evaluate the program for input quality and outcome performance, including student learning outcomes and cost effectiveness.

DCCCD, StraighterLine and CHEA have worked independently to successfully serve adult learners for years. With over 20,000 students taking online courses per year, DCCCD is one of the best-known, most experienced, and highly regarded providers of online programs in the 2-year sector. StraighterLine has pioneered the low-cost alternative provider market for credit-bearing online courses, offering high-quality general education courses to students at prices dramatically lower than those charged by most colleges. StraighterLine will enroll nearly 20,000 students in the 2015-2016 academic year and offers a full general education catalog (~60 courses) of high-quality, well-supported, self-paced online courses. StraighterLine has direct articulation agreements with nearly 100 regionally accredited colleges (including DCCCD) and courses are recommended through the American Council on Education Credit Evaluation Service for transfer of credit.  CHEA has overseen accreditation efforts and has already implemented a review process for alternative learning provider Quality Platform.

For the EQUIP project, DCCCD will let students earn up to 75% of their degree through the completion of StraighterLine courses.  Students will be able to enroll in StraighterLine’s 3 or 4 credit courses for $99 per credit during a 16-week term. This price includes all necessary textbooks, lab kits, proctoring services, support fees and other fees (excluding any costs for devices). It is expected that most students will choose to take at least 2 courses (six credits) thereby qualifying the student for at least half-time Pell eligibility. It is further expected that students will be able to add additional courses to their course load mid-semester should the student complete their initial courses before the end of the term. Upon completion of 75% of a program, the student will transfer their credits to DCCCD and enroll in DCCCD’s courses at standard DCCCD prices.

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