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

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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Incremental Credentialing

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Practices: Specialize As You Go


Practices: Specialize As You Go

Specialize As You Go credentials are designed to prepare individuals for specializations in the workplace and academic disciplines. While they may or may not be connected to other credentials, individuals seek them to add advanced learning to more traditional degrees or certificates, often to improve their employment prospects. Specialize As You Go credentials give learners additional areas for employability and/or advancement, help them connect their prior learning with specializations, and allow them to return and develop additional skills, often more quickly than in a full degree program.

A report from Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality that examines the role of postsecondary education in labor force segregation, highlights the STEM persistence and success strategy employed by Xavier University of Louisiana. The historically Black college invests heavily in developing STEM talent, regardless of a student’s level of preparation or economic hardship. It consistently ranks at the top of schools graduating Black students who hold STEM degrees, particularly in the biomedical sciences. Xavier’s empirically validated interventions include multiple opportunities to engage in hands-on research, peer-led discussions and peer-shadowing experiences; STEM-related seminars and skill-building workshops from the first year of study; supportive faculty mentorship and strong advising; and multiple academic supports (tutoring, extra instruction, and academic skills workshops) throughout all introductory-level STEM classes. Xavier increased funding for on-campus jobs to address the need of the majority of its students to work in STEM roles. Xavier helps recent degree-holders obtain research positions and apply to graduate schools. It also partners with outside organizations to increase students’ and graduates’ opportunities for paid research during the summer and after graduation.

The report also includes recommendations for policy makers and postsecondary institutions to address occupational segregation and promote success in every field of study. The recommendations include:

  •  Implement culturally relevant, systematic improvements to programming, curriculum, pedagogy, and support structures.
  •  Pursue solutions to affordability barriers specific to various fields of study.
  •  Increase investments in and create incentives to improve structurally excluded students’ accessibility to in highly segregated fields of study.
  •  Establish a federal, student-level data system that can enable institutions and policymakers to set and track meaningful goals related to the inclusion, attainment, and career success of structurally excluded students in historically segregated fields.

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Improving Education and Employment Outcomes