Moving from a Degree-Centric Postsecondary System to an Incremental Credentialing System: What Happens to Learners’ Financing Options?

Organization Case Study


Strategic Decision-Making and Communications

Colorado State University Global Campus


Strategic Decision-Making and Communications


General Education


In Development


15 credits


These courses are already completed


  • Retro As You Go


  • Query to understand the perspectives of diverse stakeholders in an environment, locale, or culture
  • Devise a framework for ethical inquiry and problem-solving in public and private spaces
  • Evaluate the accuracy and credibility of information used for strategy and decision-making
  • Create purposeful and clear communications for various audiences


Why the Credential was Developed

  • The credential is developed in response to the Retro-Award As You Go approach to incremental credentials. Developing a non-conferred credential and badge for inactive students would be a way to bring learners back to higher education at CSUG or another Colorado school to complete a program of study.
  • The non-conferred credential connects to state, system, and institutional levels because it helps CSUG to approach state goals for tertiary credits earned by Colorado residents; it helps CSUG to address national concerns with stackable certifications and alternative means for students to access higher education and build themselves professionally.
  • The credential can be used by students on their social media and benefits them in career development. It meets workforce needs because the competencies show that CSUG students can fill important positions in industry with what they have learned through their university-level experience with us.
  • We know our underrepresented minority students enroll more in certifications and specializations, and hope this non-conferred credential can help learners to re-engage with their programs and continue to achieve higher education credentials, closing equity gaps.

How the Credential was Developed

  • CSUG developed the Retro-Award As You Go credential under the auspices of our 2023 Presidential Priority initiatives, which includes New Enrollment Pathways to increase student enrollments. Retro-Award As You Go expanded that mandate to “increase new student enrollment and re-engage inactive and withdrawn students.”
  • The offices of the Registrar and Student Retention were primarily involved. A Program Director for General Education acted as the liaison between the CDHE and the university’s constituents. Marketing helped to develop the badge’s language and messaging to reach stopped-out students. Because the university already had non-conferred certificates of completion within the structure, there was no extra approval process needed for the Retro-Award As You Go non-conferred credential.
  • In the spirit of Retro-Award As You Go, students who have gone inactive or withdrawn for any reason should still receive credit for the work they put into their tertiary education and their achievements. The quality and trust are tied to the students’ existing achievements with CSUG. The credential is documented and shared through badging in the students’ social media and digital platforms.

The Targeted Learners

  • The targeted learner is an inactive student who has pursued education to advance in a career. They will learn about the credential through a targeted marketing campaign run by the university.
  • The student support strategy is to offer students the badge as a non-conferred credential and give them information about a dedicated re-enrollment team that is trained behind the scenes in Retro-Award As You Go and can help the returning student to re-engaged in either the original program or the bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Professional Studies, which permits students to choose courses that fit their career goals.
  • Also, students will learn about the university’s refreshed Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) program, where students can pay a nominal fee to have their learning portfolio assessed for university credit. PLA examinations can help with attaining a bachelor’s degree at CSUG.

Lessons Learned

  • We learned that while we value our agile, entrepreneurial values and processes, creating a non-conferred credential based on past performance was a heavy lift because of the data demands. (If we had not already had space in our structure for non-conferred credentials, the timeline would have been exponentially longer because of the number of approvals we would have needed for development and launch.)
  • We had to work with a third-party vendor on the transcript audit to find the courses and profiles that we could retro-fit with this credential. That required time and resources that were difficult to come by for the Registrar and the Student Retention specialist’s offices.

Improving Education and Employment Outcomes