In 2011, when Gov. Rick Perry issued an executive order establishing WGU Texas, a state-approved subsidiary of Western Governors University, a national, nonprofit online university, many of the state's top higher education officials heralded its competency-based approach to student advancement.
Now that approach, in which students advance after proving their mastery of a concept rather than after a predetermined amount of time in a class, is poised to move from the internet to the physical campuses. "There is nothing magic about online and competency-based," said Mark Milliron, the chancellor of WGU Texas.
WGU Texas and three community colleges — Sinclair Community College in Ohio, Broward College in Florida and Texas' own Austin Community College — have received a shared $12 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to develop curricula for key technology fields that allow students to move at their own pace in courses that aren't purely internet based.
About $2 million of the grant will go to ACC, which will focus its efforts on computer programming courses. It is expected that students will be able to enroll in go-at-your-own-speed programming courses as early as the fall of 2013. Once they have earned an associate's degree, through an agreement between the schools, they will be able to continue on to WGU Texas and earn a bachelor's degree.