5 vital focus areas to make postsecondary credentials a success

A more accessible and easily understood system for credentials could have a major impact on learners, employers and education providers moving forward.

job-students-technologyWhat will it take to make credentialing an easier process for students? How can education stakeholders validate credentials? What do employers need from today’s credentials? How can minority learners better take advantage of credentials?

Those are just some of the issues addressed in a new report from Lumina Foundation concerning the Connecting Credentials partnership, which aims to address problems that hamper students’ efforts to attain high-quality credentials in the current higher education system.

In Early 2015, Lumina Foundation, in partnership with the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce (CSW) and the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), called for a national dialogue on postsecondary credentialing. A national summit was held on the topic in Washington, D.C. on October 5, co-sponsored by 89 other organizations, with nearly 170 organizations in attendance.

The report, “Connecting Credentials: Lessons from the National Summit on Credentialing and Next Steps in the National Dialogue,” details findings and suggestions from the summit that could lead to a reformed credentialing system boasting greater transparency and portability to better serve the needs of students, employers and educators.

With many different pathways to higher education, each with their own postsecondary credential, there currently is not a common language that enables users to compare and connect them, no system to assure credentials are of quality and relevance to the workplace, and no repository where users can easily obtain relevant information about credentials.

The drawbacks from this system are severe, and especially hamper older, low-income and minority learners who have the potential to fall further behind without a clear pathway to a high-quality higher education.

A Need for Order

As more jobs increasingly demand postsecondary credentials, it is critical for institutions to prepare students as well as they can to succeed, notes the report; meaning developing clear ways to help all employers, students, and education providers to understand credentials’ meaning and value for different purposes.

And if institutions and stakeholders still believe that the need for credentialing is on a future horizon, they may be wrong: The report reveals that the amount of associate degrees earned has doubled since 2002; technical programs now represent 25 percent of all credentials; and in the last three decades, the number of postsecondary certificates awarded has increased by more than 800 percent.

Yet, despite such a competitive market, only 11 percent of business leaders said they considered college graduates to be prepared for the workforce–a problem that could be remedied through effective credentialing.

(Next page: What would a better system of postsecondary credentials look like?)

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