One year ago, NGLC announced the grant recipients of its “Breakthrough Models for College Completion” funding wave (fondly referred to here as Wave IIIb). The ten pioneering institutions of higher education that were selected for funding set out to redefine the ways in which students earn degrees and the ways in which those institutions would support students. The challenge posed through the request for proposals was to provide a high-quality education at low-cost—an educational experience that low-income and Black and Hispanic students in particular could access and would stick with until they completed their degree, with the institution providing students with the help and support they need to be successful.
And these grant recipients rose to the challenge. They embarked on a year of planning to further develop their “breakthrough models.” The models put students in the driver seat of their learning—with choice over what, how, and when they learn via personalized learning approaches such as competency-based learning, authentic and active learning, and blended and online learning. Many of them broke away from determining learning based on seat time in favor of demonstrated mastery of the curriculum, knowledge, and skills. Their academic models are characterized by modular content, competency maps, coaches and advisors, and performance-based assessment of deeper learning. The ten institutions also reconsidered their business model—specialized faculty roles, alternative tuition models, and using data to target student supports—in support of a more efficient and more effective academic model for today’s students.
Since October 2012, the ten grantees have been busy turning their innovative designs into reality—hiring faculty and staff to fill the specialized roles; developing curriculum and assessments; modifying and perfecting learning platforms, student dashboards, and intervention strategies; seeking accreditation; and recruiting students. Students have started enrolling in seven of the ten degree programs.
As the grantees make the shift from design to implementation, they have necessarily and understandably fine-tuned their model. We have captured that fine-tuning in our re-release of their grantee profiles. The profiles offer richly descriptive information about key features of the models, the hallmarks that make them unique, and a narrative that digs deeper into the philosophy behind their approach and how the individual model elements work together in support of student learning and persistence.
What changed in the past year? Three of the institutions delayed their start dates. One of them identified a partner college. Several of the updated profiles offer more fully developed descriptions of pieces of the models as the grantees have operationalized their plans. There were some new titles for staff roles and tools (for example, “clickable transcript” and “faculty mentor”). One profile sports a new graphic. And several grantees replaced projected numbers of students served in the first year and projected price for students with actual numbers. In all, it’s perhaps surprising that the development and fine-tuning the grantees undertook over the past year did not alter their model designs more severely—despite some important challenges to implementation given the extent to which these models deviate from traditional higher education degree programs.
So read these profiles that have been dusted off and given a breath of fresh air to see how the Breakthrough Models for College Completion grantees are redesigning postsecondary education to make it more personalized, more affordable, and more supportive. And stay tuned to see what updates this coming year will bring!
Explore the Portfolio
- Download the complete set of Breakthrough Models for College Completion
Read Individual Profiles