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The Department of Education is inviting colleges and universities using innovative approaches to postsecondary education to participate in four new projects under its Experimental Sites Initiative. Participating institutions are granted waivers from certain statutory and regulatory requirements for the delivery of federal student aid.

This year's experiments focus on removing barriers that may hinder the development of promising new ways to structure education. ED is looking for institutions interested in one of the following initiatives:

  • Prior Learning Assessment: Institutions would be allowed to increase a student's cost of attendance to include reasonable costs incurred by the student for the assessment of prior learning.
  • Competency-Based Education: Participating institutions would be able to make funds available to students as they progress through the program at their own speed without following all of the time-based restrictions on aid delivery.
  • Limited Direct Assessment: Programs that combine both direct assessment courses and traditional clock- or credit-hour programs could offer aid despite current rules that limit eligibility of direct assessment programs to those that use that method exclusively and that exclude remedial courses utilizing direct assessment.
  • Near-Peer Counseling: In order to encourage the use of college students as near-peer counselors to at-risk and underrepresented high school students, the usual 25 percent institutional match of Federal Work-Study funds may be reduced or eliminated.

Institutions may apply to participate in more than one of the experiments. The deadline for applications is September 29. ED will seek to balance its selections to ensure that a wide variety of institutions are represented. 

For schools interested in applying, ED will host an instructor-led webinar that will provide more details about the four experiments. Advanced registration is required and is on a first-come, first-served basis. 


Liz Clark

Vice President, Policy and Research


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