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Competency Based Education program allows students to progress from enrollment to graduation more flexibly

Friday, November 11, 2022

An opportunity through NICC awards him credit for prior learning and he’s moving through a one-year program faster.

Paul Hanni news imagePaul Hanni, a May 2022 graduate of Crestwood High School in Cresco, Iowa, found just the training he was looking for to advance his career.

After completing short-term training certificates in CNC Operator and Welding through a partnership between his high school and Northeast Iowa Community College, Paul is developing his welding skills even further. An opportunity through NICC awards him credit for prior learning and he’s moving through a one-year program faster.

“I learned that I could finish the second half of my Welding program training through a new Competency Based Education option at NICC. My high school guidance counselor helped guide me to the Peosta campus, which had the one-year diploma program. I hadn’t even heard of Peosta, Iowa, before!” Paul said.

Paul and one of his high school friends relocated to Peosta last summer and both enrolled at NICC. Competency Based Education (CBE) programs at NICC are more flexible and allow students to study and complete projects at their own pace. In the program Paul completes coursework online and trains in the Welding lab four hours each week.

“The CBE program at the College is great because it allows me to progress through the training more quickly, and I’m able to start my welding career as a welder during the program,” he said. Paul is currently working part-time as a welder-fabricator.

The Last-Dollar Scholarship also paid for all his tuition. Paul just has to pay for rent, food and gas for the car as a student and will graduate without any debt.

“Receiving this scholarship just feels great. People don’t always have an opportunity to go to college and the scholarship is making it possible for so many. I have friends who have to pay more than $10,000 for their education or $20,000, when you consider room, housing and board. I’m planning to complete the Welding-CBE program in early 2023 and start working full-time,” he said.

Manufacturers in northeast Iowa need skilled welders and Paul’s training in the diploma program and the certificates he earned through NICC made a difference in the job search.

“The certificate programs prepared me for more advanced training and my career,” said Paul. “If you go into a manufacturing job, you need to know how to read blueprints yourself. Having a good grasp of this really helps with employment and makes you stand out. I’m ahead of many people looking for the same job.”

Competency-Based Education is a course delivery method where students control the pace that learning takes place. This learning model is based on two key components: learning for competency and flexible-pacing. CBE focuses on helping students achieve competence or mastery of the concepts and skills covered in courses, while allowing for flexibility to move more quickly or slowly through the courses. For more information visit