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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Stakeholders

Quality, Trust, and Value of Incremental Credentials

Stakeholders

Many stakeholders are concerned about quality, trust, and value in credentials, including the growing array of shorter-term, non-degree credentials which constitute a large portion of incremental credentials. Six are key: credential providers, learners, states, federal agencies, utilizers (employers and educators), and third-party assurance entities such as accreditors.

  • Credential Providers: Higher education institutions and third-party organizations must prioritize quality, trust, and value in the credentials they offer. The stakes are high. If credential quality is not assured, providers run the risk of losing accreditation, enrollment, employer partnerships, government funding, and reputation. And students may be unable to find gainful employment. 
  • Learners: Learners seek quality, trusted, and valuable credentials that can lead to good jobs and to further education. In many cases, they seek credentials that are aligned to licensing that is required for specific occupations. Graduates’ pass rates on licensing examinations are of high importance to providers—as are employability statistics.
  • States: Governors and other state policymakers can advance policy designed to help individuals acquire credentials that improve their livelihood. Policymakers recognize that a variety of credentials can be earned in diverse learning environments. They use public funds to support such credentials so long as they demonstrate quality, trust, and value for individuals, employers, and communities at large. States share information about quality credentials and credentialing bodies through avenues such as career and technical education (CTE) programs, and state-eligible training provider lists (ETPLs). States also can help displaced workers gain access to non-degree credentials that allow them to reskill and re-enter the labor market. States also provide guidance on credentialing to higher education systems and institutions.
  • Federal Agencies: The U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies offer guidance on credentialing to higher education institutions and other credential providers. Federal financial aid rules, for example, set policy to ensure that quality credentials are eligible for funding.
  • Employers and Educators: Quality and trust in credentials are important to employers and educators. Employers look to credentials as evidence of an individual’s qualifications for employment or job advancement. Educators also look to credentials as evidence of students’ qualifications for transfer or for admission to advanced degree programs.
  • Accreditors: Accreditors play an important role in providing third-party assurance that the program or higher education institution meets established academic and professional standards. This helps ensure that credentials offered demonstrate quality, value, and relevance to employers and other stakeholders.  

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