The federal government should adopt policies that separate learning from credentialing to help individuals more effectively demonstrate educational mastery to prospective employers, asserts a tech policy think tank in a new analysis.

Why It’s Time to Disrupt Higher Education by Separating Learning From Credentialing, from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), notes that credentialing currently comes mostly in the form of traditional college diplomas, but because information technology has reshaped industries by increasing quality and decreasing cost, the time has come for the same type of transformation in higher education.

There are two major problems with the country’s current higher education system, ITIF Senior Fellow Joseph V. Kennedy, the report’s lead author, and coauthors Daniel Castro, ITIF’s vice president, and Robert Atkinson, ITIF’s president, noted:

First, institutions usually limit students from mixing and matching cheaper ways of learning, such as community college courses, MOOCs, or self-study, all of which could make higher education more efficient and less costly.

Second, because each college and university has its own grading practices and degree standards, students, parents, and employers have little ability to compare the quality of education that different schools provide for a particular degree, diminishing the incentives for schools to compete on how well they actually educate students. Likewise, because degrees do little to differentiate among graduates, students have little motivation for learning more than the minimum to get a degree.

(Next page: Six recommended reforms for credentialing)

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