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

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Learner Supports

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Key Definitions

Learner Supports

Key Definitions

Incremental Credentials: These credentials capture learning as it is acquired along the learning pathway and formally recognize and connect that learning to a larger context. Incremental credentials can be non-credit or credit-bearing; undergraduate or graduate level; of any size, from small units of learning up through degrees. The purpose of incremental credentials is to ensure that learners are recognized for what they know and can do as they acquire the learning—and to make sure they obtain formal documentation of that learning.

Incremental Credentialing: The overall design and process used to develop and connect credentials to further learning and employment.

Learner Success: Success can be defined in many ways.

  • A definition that is learner-centric—a determination of goals and personal situations measured by each individual learner.
  • A definition that is higher education- and policymaker-centric—graduation rates, course completion, retention rates, academic achievement, degree attainment, credits completed, student advancement.
  • Another definition that focuses on economic mobility and economic growth—focusing on learners’ acquisition of skills and knowledge that prepare them to enter and progress in high-demand occupations, ultimately contributing to the economic growth and prosperity of a region.

Learner Supports: A comprehensive range of services and resources that are delivered by the credential provider to enhance learners’ academic, personal, and career development. Learner supports aim to remove barriers along education and career paths and to foster an inclusive environment for learning and work. While advising professionals and offices are often seen as primary connectors to student supports, this work is not theirs alone. Administrators, staff, and faculty throughout the college community share responsibility for informing students about these resources and facilitating their access to them.

Wraparound Services: A term used to describe a package of high-priority services that research has shown to support learner success. These services include full or partial payment of tuition, books, and materials; frequent class meetings with a career counselor; frequent individual contacts with a career counselor; childcare voucher for hours spent in classes; one-time emergency assistance with rent or other expenses (provided on a case-by-case basis).

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Improving Education and Employment Outcomes