The development of mentoring programs that pair college students with high schoolers is among the strategies the U.S. Department of Education would like to pilot as part of a new initiative to improve college completion for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The federal agency this week unveiled plans to test innovative practices at several experimental sites
with the goal of finding flexible and faster ways to get students to degree completion. Using federal work study funds, the government will be seeking higher education institutions willing to pilot programs that work with college students to mentor high school students in the areas of college readiness, student aid, career counseling and financial literacy, according to a press release
In other experiments, the department also wants to test giving students federal student aid based on how much they learn through competency-based education programs. Other sites will evaluate the effectiveness using student aid to pay for prior learning assessments and providing a mix of direct assessment coursework and credit hour coursework in the same program.
Applications are due in September for the new round of experimental sites. There can be several institutions per experiment, but department officials have not determined how many. Schools that receive the waivers would receive flexibility in how they spend their federal aid to carry out the new programs.
This announcement is in addition to one in December, when the department invited colleges to propose new models for financial aid at experimental sites. The department also announced that it would partner the Department of Labor to establish a $25 million grant competition for an "Online Skills Academy" to support the development of a platform for high-quality, affordable pathways to degrees, certificates, or other employer-recognized credentials.