Using CBE to Power Equitable Economic Recovery

The economic impacts of COVID-19 are evident every day, from the ability of employers to keep businesses open with a healthy workforce to fill vacancies, to sudden job loss and displacement at a time when housing prices seem out of reach. The evidence is clear that these dynamics have disproportionately impacted Black and Latino workers, leaving many underemployed or unemployed.

Many workers are now seeking opportunities to upskill or reskill in order to connect to in demand jobs that can provide a family sustaining wage. However, their choices remain limited as many education programs do not offer the flexibility needed for working adults. Nor do they offer reliable results, meaning the individual knows there will be gainful employment on the other side of the degree or credential.

In response, C-BEN and JFF announced an Equity Collaboratory designed to create a blue print for how institutions can take action to redesign programs with low-income, Black and Latino workers at the center. Through the support of experts on racial equity, competency-based learning, culturally responsive teaching, labor market data, and student supports, 27 institutions collaborated to create Designing with Equity in Mind: An Action Toolkit for Competency-Based Education.

“When we talk about making higher education more equitable, it’s not enough to get more students from all backgrounds to earn a credential. We have to ensure that our institutions are actually delivering on the promise of moving people up the economic ladder and helping students achieve their career goals. We don’t just need a new model of higher education in our country. We need a new model for equitable economic advancement. Focusing on true competency, rather than the arbitrary markers of pedigree and time commitment, we can unlock both.” Charla Long and Stacey Clawson in HigherEdDive

The toolkit was released at CBExchange in October along with a panel session with representatives from Texas A&M University, Commerce and Washtenaw Community College sharing their stories about using competency-based education as a way to build more equitable completion and economic opportunities.

We hope you download the toolkit today and use it as a guide to examine your current offerings or to help create new programs that can deliver on the promise of higher education to provide flexible, reliable and relevant credentials.

About the Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN)

C-BEN is a network of institutions, employers, and experts who believe competencies can unlock the future of learning — making education and training more flexible, responsive, and valuable. We support stakeholders across the spectrum of competency-based learning, from institutions and employers who want to embed competencies into their existing programs to those looking to design full competency-based degree programs from the ground up. For more information, visit

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