Designing with Equity in Mind

The Equity Collaboratory

Higher education is meant to be an engine of economic opportunity and mobility; yet, for too long, institutions have struggled to provide equitable access and outcomes. Black and Latino populations are underserved by higher education and systemically limited in socioeconomic mobility.

Competency-based education
(CBE) is an approach that can educate, equip, and empower Black, Latinx, and Native American learners to earn the credentials needed for career advancement. In a 2021 op-ed, Charla Long of C-BEN and Stacey Clawson of JFF argue that “education based on competencies, rather than time alone, has the power to deliver equitable economic advancement. ” We believe that high-quality CBE has the potential to lead to more equitable labor market outcomes for learners because it incorporates many of the features we know to be critical for learner success: flexibility, comprehensive supports, recognition of existing knowledge and skills, and defined pathways from education to work. To fully realize this potential, programs must a) incorporate strategies to recruit and retain learners from populations historically underrepresented in higher education, and b) lead to credentials of value in the labor market. CBE programs are designed to promote mastery of competencies. If those competencies are aligned with labor market demand, graduates will be better positioned for near- term career outcomes and long-term advancement.

As a result, a set of institutions developed guidance on critical design features for CBE with equity and quality at the forefront. You can access the guide here. (