Press Releases

Grothman Leads Student-Focused Legislation with Broad, Bipartisan Support

Washington, February 29, 2024 | Timothy Svoboda (202-225-2476)
Tags: Education

(Washington, D.C.) – Congressmen Glenn Grothman (R-WI), Brittany Pettersen (D-CO), and Burgess Owens (R-UT) have introduced the bipartisan Empowering Learners Through Competency-Based Education Act, which will assist universities in cultivating learning environments that will allow students to learn at their own pace, called competency-based education (CBE), in an effort to more quickly lead young Americans to meaningful careers with less student loan debt.

This legislation has received support from the Western Governors University, Capella University, Higher Learning Advocates, and the Center for Higher Education Policy and Practice at Southern New Hampshire University.

“Ensuring students receive a top-notch education without accruing significant debt is a top priority of mine. Competency-based education offers a transformative approach to higher education, addressing the staggering student loan debt crisis that burdens so many graduates. By allowing students to progress at their own pace and demonstrate mastery of subjects, CBE programs enable them to complete degrees in significantly less time with less debt,” said Congressman Grothman “The Empowering Learners Through Competency-Based Education Act will streamline CBE implementation, empowering students, easing financial burdens, and fostering innovation in education."

“Students learn at different paces, but a one-size-fits-all higher education system fails to cater to this factThis bipartisan bill will create more options for those seeking higher education by fostering learning environments that allow students to self-pace and develop specific skills and knowledge in a shorter timeframe,” said Representative Pettersen. “As a mom, I want my son, and every kid, to have as many options as possible when they graduate high school. This bill will not only give more flexibility to students, but will also help us combat the student debt crisis by creating affordable options for those wishing to enter the workforce.”

“To build and maintain the greatest economy in the world, America needs to align our education standards with our workforce demands,” said Congressman Owens. “This bill addresses fundamental issues plaguing our nation's higher education system, providing a much-needed departure from an unaffordable, inflexible, and outdated structure that does not benefit students. Colleges across the country are beginning to challenge the traditional credit hour model and emphasize skills mastery as a more relevant metric for academic progress, and it's working. This legislation represents the forward-looking approach needed to close the skills gap, connect employer needs with employee competencies, and inject a bold approach into how we develop future generations of Utahns and Americans that will stand the test of time.”

“Our postsecondary education system is outdated, too expensive, and far too bureaucratic. Competency-based education is the type of innovative reform we need in postsecondary education. This knowledge-based model rewards students for their mastery of the subject, not for how many hours they sit in a classroom. CBE keeps colleges and universities from becoming degree mills and instead helps students acquire the skills and competencies needed to be prepared for a successful career. By measuring students’ success through the competencies acquired in their program, students may be able to speed up the time it takes to get through the program and into a job. This will strengthen our workforce and do much to solve the skills gap and labor shortage that is preventing our economy from reaching its true potential,” said Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC).

“Competency-Based Education (CBE) puts the student in the driver’s seat of their education, enabling them to progress at the pace that works for them. At a time when the public is increasingly questioning whether college is worth it, CBE has the potential to fundamentally alter the value equation by delivering a stronger return on investment. To that end, I extend heartfelt appreciation to Congressman Grothman and Congresswoman Pettersen for championing the Empowering Learners through Competency-Based Education Act. By cementing the perpetual recognition of CBE, this legislation paves the way for educational offerings finely attuned to the dynamic needs of students and the workforce,” said Scott Pulsipher, President of Western Governors University.

“Capella University is proud to support the Empowering Learners Through Competency-Based Education Act introduced by Rep. Grothman. Competency-based education can help students, especially working adult students, save time and money on their college education while concurrently upskilling and reskilling our workforce in real-time,” said Dr. Constance St. Germain, President of Capella University. “This bill allows for tangible innovation in higher education by providing a framework for institutions to build CBE programs as well as important considerations to ensure quality outcomes.”

“Higher Learning Advocates enthusiastically supports Representatives Grothman's, Owen's, and Pettersen's Empowering Learners through Competency-Based Education Act,” said Julie Peller, Executive Director of Higher Learning Advocates. “Competency-Based Education affords today’s students the opportunity to learn at their own pace and earn credentials of value. We commend his commitment to high-quality and innovative education models, and for providing a space to identify and test effective practices that can shape the future of Competency-Based Education and will benefit today’s — and tomorrow’s — learners.”

“With fewer Americans enrolling in college, and more stopping out each year, learners need more ways to earn a postsecondary degree that are better designed to meet their lives and needs. We thank Representatives Grothman, Petterson, and Owens for introducing this bill to support the development and responsible scale of Competency-Based Education models to provide learners with flexible pathways, anchored in competencies that are crucial for success in work and life,” said Jamie Fasteau, Executive Director, Center for Higher Education Policy and Practice at SNHU

Background Information

The nationwide average amount of student loan debt that has yet to be paid off is over $37,000 per borrower. In Wisconsin, graduates on average leave school with about $32,000 of debt. CBE alleviates the burden of student loan debt by allowing students to learn at their own pace and often obtain the same degree in a much shorter amount of time.

Under a CBE program, students benefit from a personalized learning experience tailored to their individual needs, strengths, and interests. Unlike traditional class time models, CBE allows students to progress based on mastery rather than time spent in class. Moreover, CBE programs often integrate continuous assessment and feedback mechanisms, enabling students to monitor their progress and make ongoing improvements. This approach fosters a deeper understanding of the material and better prepares students for future coursework and careers. Additionally, CBE programs are known for their cost-effectiveness and time efficiency. Students may complete their degrees in less time, thereby reducing overall tuition costs and enabling them to enter the workforce sooner.

The University of Wisconsin is a leader in CBE and has seen the program save students thousands of dollars, allow for flexible school schedules, and deliver the same quality of results as traditional time-based education programs. Two of their most popular CBE programs are in health care and Information Technology (IT).

Specifically, the Empowering Learners Through Competency-Based Education Act would:

  • Define CBE programs to better enable institutions to develop this type of educational model.
  • Require the Department of Education to collect, verify, and make publicly available important program outcomes information on CBE programs, including the percentage of students completing these programs and being employed within six months.
  • Establish a CBE demonstration project at the Department of Education to assist institutions in developing CBE programs, while also disseminating reliable information as a result of this demonstration for further evaluation to enhance the understanding of CBE.


U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Glenbeulah) is serving his fifth term representing Wisconsin’s 6th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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