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

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Quality, Trust, and Value of Incremental Credentials

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Examples of Key Organizations in this Arena

Quality, Trust, and Value of Incremental Credentials

Examples of Key Organizations in this Arena

A number of organizations play important roles in helping to shape discussions, policies, and practices related to quality, trust, and value in credentials. They provide resources, conduct research, and promote best practices to enhance the value and credibility of credentials in various sectors and industries. Some provide specific guidance and recommendations to states and credential providers in ensuring quality in credentials, especially non-degree credentials. Others provide data on outcomes of various credentials.

  • American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO): Addresses issues related to academic and enrollment services, including credential evaluation, transfer credit, and quality assurance.
  • American Council on Education (ACE): Advocates for quality and access in higher education, including discussions on credentialing and credit transfer. Quality Dimensions of Connected Credentials defines six dimensions of quality of connected credentials: transparency; modularity, portability; relevance; validity and equity. It also uses these criteria to assess the connectedness of different types of credentials. Recognizing that general descriptions of credential types can mask huge variation among specific credentials within each category, it offers challenge questions to provide a framework for dialogue and more detailed analysis of the connectedness of credentials.
  • Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U): Reports on high-impact educational practices, competency-based education, and the value of liberal education, offering insights into designing quality and valuable credentials from a higher education perspective. The LEAP State Initiative engages states, state systems of higher education, and consortia that are collaborating to raise the quality of college learning within and across states.
  • Competency-based Education Network (C-BEN): Advocates for learning being measured by what learners can do—the knowledge, skills, and behaviors that lay the foundation for their success. C-BEN guides its networks of leaders toward quality competency-based models for education, hiring, and training, so everyone can gain the competencies they need for career readiness and lifelong learning.
  • Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA): Recognizes and promotes quality assurance in higher education; recognizes accrediting organizations and advocates for quality standards and practices in accreditation.
  • Credential Engine: Provides tools and resources for credential transparency. Credential Engine developed a Quality Assurance Framework to guide quality assurance practices and advises states to promote credential transparency by using a common language and data framework. It also recommends standardizing and publishing information about non-degree credentials, such as competencies, assessment methods, and quality assurance measures.
  • Education & Employment Research Center, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey: Developed Non-Degree Credentials: A Conceptual Model for Quality and other tools to address quality in non-degree credentials.
  • Education Strategy Group: Developed a report on how states can identify/promote credentials of value through a three-step process: (1) Identify high-value credentials through analysis of employer signals of value and identification of credentials that count for postsecondary credit; (2) Incentivize attainment of high-value credentials by demonstrating the value that credentials provide for students’ futures, by promoting school and district prioritization of high-value credentials with incentives in funding and accountability systems, and by publicly communicating the importance of specific credentials; and (3) Collect and report credential attainment data with new expectations for data collection and quality that do not rely on self-reported information.
  • Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW): Its reports focus on the intersection of education, credentials, and workforce outcomes, providing in-depth analysis and projections regarding the value of various credentials and their impact on individuals' career pathways.
  • HLC Credential Lab: An innovation hub within the Higher Learning Commission that supports institutions and learners in navigating the complex and growing ecosystem of alternative postsecondary credentials within and outside of higher education. The Credential Lab is designing a quality assurance system for credential content providers along with resources and support for educational institutions and providers to ensure quality learning experiences and outcomes.
  • Jobs for the Future (JFF): Involved in several initiatives and activities aimed at ensuring the development and recognition of high-quality credentials. For example:
    • Credentials that Work focuses on improving the quality, transparency, and value of workforce credentials. It also strengthens connections between credentials and labor market opportunities; provides guidance to states, institutions, and employers on practices in credential design, validation, and recognition; and ensures quality in work-based learning experiences and associated credentials.
    • Building Equitable Pathways focuses on advancing equity in education and workforce systems. This includes efforts to ensure that quality credentials are accessible to individuals from historically marginalized communities and that these credentials lead to meaningful career opportunities. The initiative addresses issues related to equity, inclusion, and diversity in credentialing and supports strategies to remove systemic barriers.
    • The National Center for Inquiry and Improvement focuses on research, evaluation, and continuous improvement of education and workforce programs. The center collaborates with partners to conduct research on promising practices, identify effective credentialing models, and develop strategies for improving credential quality and relevance.
    • Policy and Advocacy: The organization works with policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels to shape policies that support the development, recognition, and alignment of high-quality credentials, including policies that prioritize equity, transparency, and industry relevance.
    • Signals of Quality project assesses the quality and economic payoff of non-degree credentials. JFF is working with Burning Glass Institute to build on the Educational Quality Standards (EQOS) framework. The project focuses on short-term credentials and how to translate to employment and career advancement, by building on many public data sets with metrics across five categories: (1) Employment Outcomes —Where do workers end up and how much do they make? (2) Access—Do workers in different demographic groups earn the credential? How much does the program cost? (3) Demand—Are occupations that require the credential in demand, and is the credential recognized in the market? (4) Learning—What skills do workers gain when they earn a credential? (5) Opportunity—Do credentials lead to good career pathways? There are different metrics in each category (17 metrics in the Opportunity category, 17 in Employment Outcomes).
  • Lumina Foundation: The Foundation’s Quality Credentials Task Force Report highlights the importance of quality credentials and presents recommendations for improving credentialing systems. It addresses topics such as transparency, learner-centeredness, and competency-based education.
  • National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES): Promotes quality and consistency in credential evaluation for international education.
  • National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEC): Works to ensure that career and technical education credentials meet quality standards and align with industry needs.
  • National Skills Coalition: Promotes skills development and credentialing for the workforce; advocates for quality and transparency in credentials to ensure their relevance in the labor market; advises states to establish quality assurance systems for non-degree credentials, including setting standards for program design, curriculum, and assessment. It also ensures alignment with industry need and emphasizes the importance of involving employers, industry representatives, and credentialing organizations in the development and validation of these quality standards.
  • University Professional & Continuing Education Association (UPCEA): Created a quality framework—UPCEA’s Hallmarks of Excellence in Credential Innovation—for guidance. Also developed an Alternative & Non-Degree Credentials page, a new UPCEA Resources Guide (credentials section), the Council for Credential Innovation (CCI)Alternative Credentials Networkfor UPCEA members, and the UPCEA online course, Credentials Beyond Degrees – the Role of Professional, Continuing, Online Educators in Credential Innovation. The association also conducted a survey with Collegis Education: The Effect of Employer Understanding and Engagement on Non-Degree Credentials.
  • Strada Education Network: Conducts National Survey on Workforce Credentialing, a comprehensive report that provides valuable data and trends related to workforce credentials. It offers insights into employer perspectives, the value of different credentials, and the skills most in demand in the job market.
  • Workcred: Connects and educates stakeholders to create a more integrated and effective credentialing system. Its goal is a system that better defines quality, supports the creation and consumption of more effective credentials. Workcred seeks to build a system in which credentials earn credibility with industry by meeting quality standards and demonstrating genuine value in the workplace.
  • Workforce Data Quality Campaign (WDQC): Encourages states to collect and analyze data on non-degree credentials to measure their quality and effectiveness. The campaign recommends tracking learner outcomes such as employment rates, earnings, and further educational attainment. Data collection can inform policy decisions and help identify programs that demonstrate positive outcomes.

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