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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Questions to Consider

Learner Supports

Questions to Consider

It is critical to gather data on how your organization structures and implements learner support services for learners seeking incremental credentials. The following questions and considerations will help you assess—and then improve—your institution’s approach:

1. Who is being left out by policies supporting incremental credentials? What supports are in place for non-matriculated learners who seek incremental credentials?

2. What is the learner experience at your institution? What hurdles face learners as they attempt to enroll in incremental credential programs? What challenges are they facing at home, work, or in their communities?

3. Which components of learner support are most important to your incremental credentials?

  • Support network. Is there a support network involving faculty, advisors, counselors, and other relevant staff to provide personalized assistance to learners?

4. How does the institution address the needs of veterans, active-duty service members and their families?

5. Do you have a way educate learners about available support services and how to obtain them?

  • Language. Can learners gain access to the available information in different languages?
  • Assessing Barriers. Have you inventoried barriers that may hinder learners’ access to necessary supports?

6. How are you developing culturally responsive learner supports?

  • Support Formats. Are you developing and offering workshops and training sessions to learners, with both online and in-person options?
  • Real-time Support. Do faculty and staff who offer support services have an open-door policy for providing real-time support?
  • Community Partnerships. Have you considered partnering with entities such as Single Stop, American Job Centers, or local nonprofits to help provide access to support services?

7. Do you have a plan for offering academic services to your learners? Consider two particularly important areas:

  • Academic tutoring. Do you offer tutoring services for challenging courses or subjects through peer tutoring or professional tutoring centers?
  • Course and program selection. Do you provide adequate advising to help learners choose appropriate courses and programs that align with their career goals?

8. What are your approaches to providing financial support services? Consider these important areas:

  • Federal Student Financial Aid. Do you educate learners about federal financial aid programs, such as Pell Grants and loan forgiveness options?
  • Workforce, State, Regional Resources. Are there particular state, institutional and/or workforce dollars available to support incremental credentials? Are there resources available to help students identify and obtain these resources?
  • Scholarship Resources. What information do you offer on public and private scholarships, and do you assist with scholarship applications?
  • Financial Aid Application Assistance. How do you help learners complete financial aid applications, including the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)?
  • Financial Supports and Economic Literacy Education. Do you provide the following to learners: help in obtaining childcare; transportation, food, and housing assistance; workshops and resources to improve financial planning skills?

9. How do you provide support services at various incremental steps in learners’ education and career journeys?

  • Four-Year Program Enrollment Assistance. How do you help learners from two-year institutions transition to four-year programs?
  • Career Options Exploration. Do you organize events and activities to expose learners to various career opportunities in their fields of interest (including internships, apprenticeships, and work/-and-learn options)?
  • Career Guidance and Credit for Prior Learning. What guidance do you provide that assesses informal or non-formal learning and awards credit when learners’ competencies meet defined standards?
  • Academic Options Exploration. Do you offer proactive advising, guided pathways approaches, and collaborative course mapping?
  • Graduate and Professional Program Assistance. What support do you offer learners applying for graduate and professional programs, including guidance on financial aid? Are there local or state-funded programs that can provide financial support to help learners earn incremental credentials in high-demand, high-wage fields?

10. How do you provide personalized support services to learners?

  • Personal, Career, and Academic Counseling/Advising. Are you assigning counselors/advisors to provide individualized support and guidance on personal, career, and academic matters?
  • Cultural Events and Academic Programs. Do you offer opportunities for students to participate in cultural events and academic programs not commonly available to them?
  • Mentoring Programs. Have you established mentoring programs involving faculty, upperclass students, or a combination?
  • Temporary Housing Support. Do you help learners who are current or former homeless/foster care youths secure temporary housing during academic breaks?
  • Food Security. Do you have a way to identify learners who are experiencing food insecurity and connect them to a food pantry, SNAP benefits, and local free meals?

11. How do you provide inclusive support services?

  • Tailored supports. Have you developed programs and activities tailored to specific student populations (for example, those who are limited English proficient, underrepresented in postsecondary education, or living with disabilities)?

12. What external partners (community-based organizations, governmental agencies, nonprofits, etc.) might you collaborate with or refer to and thus expand delivery of support services?

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