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

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Incremental Credentialing Framework

Playbook Sections

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Retro Award As You Go


Retro Award As You Go


  • Create credentials of different lengths than traditional degrees.
  • Develop field-specific credentials that capture learning acquired in smaller increments.
  • Develop credentials that capture common learning across disciplines.
  • Create credentials that capture what a learner has already acquired through coursework or other prior learning.


  • Create credentials in high attrition areas (e.g., credential STEM courses completed successfully, credential social science and humanity courses).
  • Create a general education credential (e.g., a microcredential in general education).
  • Create equivalent credentials (e.g., a two-year credential at a four-year institution equivalent to an associate degree).
  • Create smaller credentials designed at specific exit points that still stack into larger credentials.
  • Create a self-designed credential that captures learning already acquired (e.g., degree audit against criteria set for credentials).
  • Create credentials for specific prior learning areas (e.g., evaluate workplace training and create a credential for that training).
  • Form a partnership between employers and credentialing organizations that allows experienced workers to receive credit for existing credentials (e.g., employer-recognized credentialing systems in Singapore).

Things to Consider

  • Develop criteria for different types of credentials, including non-credit and non-degree credentials.
  • Examine patterns of attrition based on studies completed, and develop academic and workplace credentials to capture learning that is typically acquired at different points along the pathway.
  • Design a general education credential that can be used to capture learning already acquired.
  • Use degree audits to capture learning already acquired to meet new credentials.

Why Use This Strategy

  • Can help learners earn credentials for what they already know and can do.
  • Provides pathways toward degree completion and/or workplace advancement.
  • Links general education studies with many different fields and industries.
  • Formally recognizes prior learning.

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