New Playbook: Incremental Credentialing in Graduate Education

“Credential As You Go” Receives Nearly $3 Million from U.S. Department of Education Grant Program

Institute of Education Sciences funding will help develop a widely recognized incremental credentialing system for all learners

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: (SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY) Credential as You Go,” an initiative that began at SUNY Empire State in 2019, announced today it has been awarded an Institute of Education Sciences (IES) grant through the “Transformative Research in the Education Sciences” program. The federal grant, totaling nearly $3 million ($2,999,998.13) over three years will be managed by SUNY Empire State, working with a national partnership of state systems of higher education, colleges and universities, employers, accreditation organizations, and others. CAYG’s goal is to develop a widely recognized incremental credentialing system for U.S. postsecondary education that will improve academic and labor market outcomes for learners.

CAYG will serve as a blueprint within postsecondary education to strategically develop,  implement, and integrate incremental credentials such as short-term certificates, industry certifications, badges, and micro credentials for all learners. The project will also provide a strong base of research about how incremental credentialing can increase opportunities and success for all learners, not just those who earn degrees. The national extension of this work builds on an 18-month planning grant funded by Lumina Foundation.

Nan Travers, director of SUNY Empire’s Center for Leadership in Credentialing Learning, will lead the effort. She will be joined by a collaborative management team including co-leads Larry Good of Corporation for a Skilled Workforce, and Holly Zanville of the George Washington University Program on Skills, Credentials & Workforce Policy. The management team will also have representatives from the three states that will develop incremental credentialing systems through this grant: Colorado, New York, and North Carolina. A 100+ national advisory board representing postsecondary institutions and systems, industry, military, accreditors, philanthropy, and research and policy think tanks, will advise the project.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to help develop clear credentialing pathways as an alternative to the current degree system for learners with no recognized postsecondary education,” said Travers. “The goal is to empower more learners to earn high-quality postsecondary credentials and become less reliant on a legacy degree system that no longer adequately serves the needs of learners and employers.”

For many learners, the only postsecondary credentials acknowledged in the workforce are two- and four-year college degrees. This focus largely ignores students who attend college but do not complete a traditional degree, often treating them as if they have no postsecondary-level learning. According to statistics from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 36 million Americans fall into the “some college, no degree” population.

The three states participating in CAYG will implement 90 incremental credentials at the undergraduate, graduate, and continuing-education levels within both universities and community colleges.

The CAYG initiative will collect data on student access to, persistence in, and completion of postsecondary credentials; produce a framework for institutions interested in implementing incremental credentials; identify policy change recommendations to facilitate incremental credentialing; create a national marketing campaign to share strategies for incremental credentialing; and develop needed web-accessible resources to inform the many stakeholders in the learn-and-work ecosystem.

“Incremental credentialing is a significant, critically needed next step to build a fairer 21st Century postsecondary system,” underscored Zanville. “It just is not right that some 50 percent of students drop or stop out of their college or university – often with two or more years of college learning – with no recognition of their learning. We have the chance with the help of the IES to transform our postsecondary education system to a more equitable system.”

“Credential As You Go offers a great opportunity to help learners communicate what they know and can do as they seek employment,” added Good. “That can increase the ability of those without a degree to find good jobs and advancement pathways.”

The IES grant currently funds 100 percent of the project. The grant period extends through August 31, 2024.

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About The Institute of Education Sciences

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) is the statistics, research, and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Education.

About Credential As You Go

The Credential As You Go (CAYG) initiative is rethinking the credentialing model in the United States by examining how learners could gain quality credentials as they move through higher education, rather than the current four-tiered degree system.

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Lucia Weathers

Improving Education and Employment Outcomes