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ED Forms 8 Higher Ed Partnerships to Improve Access for Low-Income Students

The Educational Quality through Innovation Partnerships experiment encourages unconventional higher ed programs in an effort to promote and measure college access, affordability and student outcomes.

The United States Department of Education (ED) is rethinking ways to combat the high cost of post-secondary education. Launched this week, ED’s new Educational Quality through Innovation Partnerships (EQUIP) initiative will provide funding for low-income students to take accelerated coding bootcamps, online courses and other “new generation” programs. The ED has invited eight higher ed institutions to partner with non-traditional education providers in order to create programs eligible for federal student aid.

The goal of the EQUIP experiment is to enable students who may not be able to afford traditional college programs to still receive training for high-demand jobs. EQUIP will examine non-traditional educational models, like short-term credential options and online or blended skills training, to measure accessibility and affordability of such programs. The ED is allotting $5 million for the first year of EQUIP and expects about 1,500 students will participate.

Under the Higher Education Act, colleges that offer federal student aid are prohibited from outsourcing 50 percent or more of their instruction to un-accredited organizations that operate outside of the college. For the EQUIP experiment, the ED is waiving the restriction, in an effort to increase flexibility and affordability for students who are working part-time, are first-generation college students or come from low-income households. Among the selected education providers are four coding bootcamps, three online education providers and one corporation. To monitor the program, a third-party quality-assurance entity (QAE) is assigned to each partnership.

The following institutions, non-traditional providers and QAEs (in that order) were paired up and chosen to participate in EQUIP:

Applications for the EQUIP experiment were evaluated on five criteria: innovating to improve outcomes; equity and access; quality assurance; affordability; and student and taxpayer protections. Sites were selected based on these criteria and then invited to start a third phase of the selection process, where the ED will review proposals. Once approved, the programs could begin as early as this fall or winter.

"I'm thrilled that students will soon have access to these innovative programs, developed in partnership with colleges and new providers, with the help of federal financial aid," said Ted Mitchell, under secretary of education who announced EQUIP last October, in a statement. "As these innovative programs continue to develop, it will be increasingly important to understand what an outcomes-based quality assurance system looks like for such programs. I am encouraged to see that these colleges, providers, and quality assurance entities have stepped forward to provide models for doing so."

Further information about the EQUIP experiment is available on the ED site.

About the Author

Sri Ravipati is Web producer for THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at [email protected].

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