Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Higher Education Breakthrough Models

Texas Affordable Baccalaureate application deck

Program Name: The Texas Affordable Baccalaureate Program
Targeted Degree Program: Applied Science, emphasis in Organizational Leadership
First-Year Enrollment: 215
Anticipated Students Served in First Five Years: 6,600
Tuition Model: Seven-week, flat-rate fee
Geographies Served: Texas
Targeted Students: Students with little or no college credit or work experience; students with some college credit and work experience; and students with an earned associate degree
Project Partners: The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, South Texas College, Texas A&M University–Commerce, and the College for All Texans Foundation

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) launched the “Texas Affordable Baccalaureate Program” in spring 2014, a new Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) degree that uses a competency-based model and year-round flat-rate tuition to shorten the path to college completion. The project is a joint venture by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), South Texas College, Texas A&M University–Commerce, and the College for All Texans Foundation.

The program was designed with two critical challenges in mind: (1) the rising cost of tuition for students and (2) a growing adult population, particularly Hispanic, that often lacks the right credentials and academic training to survive in today’s economy.

In the program, students pay a flat, seven-week rate to enroll and can work through as many courses within that time period as their schedules allow. Advancement is based on showing competency in the subject area rather than hours in class.

The model is centered on three main principles:

  • Students learn better when content is personalized and delivered at their level.
  • Students need targeted supports most in the first years and direct faculty instruction in their final years.
  • Students need a degree and an experience that will have value in the workforce.

To deliver a model that’s both efficient and grounded in 21st-century skills, THECB has revamped the faculty role, engaging full-time faculty and industry experts in the development of course competencies, assessments, and curriculum materials that students can access anytime, anywhere in an on-demand online system. Students are supported in lower-division courses by individual coaches who provide feedback and support across disciplines and tutors who provide on-demand, discipline-specific support. Faculty offer upper-division courses both online and face-to-face, which include a series of real-world management problems culminating with a digital capstone experience evaluated by faculty and business leaders.

Student work is captured in an e-portfolio that’s portable beyond the institution, providing graduates with a way to document those skills that often fail to appear on a transcript.
From the outset, ensuring that graduates have a meaningful degree and not just a credential has been central to curriculum development. THECB has used the Texas Tuning process, aided by both faculty and industry experts, to outline course outcomes that include 21st-century skills such as leadership, team building, conflict resolution, communication, and applied learning alongside clear competencies with relevance to the workplace.  The goal is to graduate students with both the right credentials and the right skills for the workplace.  

Intended Outcomes:

  • Reducing the time to degree below the average of 5.3 years for full-time students
  • Realizing an 80% degree completion rate for program
  • Maintaining an annual retention rate of at least 80%
  • Achieving sustainability by year five