How can we address the rising interest in noncredit education and non-degree credentials?

Our research delves into these short-term workforce education and training offerings to better understand what they are, how data can be collected on them, and systems that can measure and promote their quality. 

Current Projects on Noncredit Education and Non-Degree Credentials
The Noncredit Research Network (NCRN)

The NCRN is a multi-disciplinary community of scholars, practitioners and policymakers that focuses on the little-understood role of certificates, certifications and other non-degree credentials in the labor market. 

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Noncredit Research Collaborative

The Noncredit Research Collaborative brings together leading researchers focused on noncredit education in postsecondary institutions.

Noncredit Student Perspectives

Data is limited on noncredit students, but particularly so when considering their qualitative experiences of noncredit programs. This project aims to fill this gap through exploration of students’ perceptions of and experiences in community college noncredit workforce programs, with the intention of developing a better understanding of how these students navigate noncredit pathways

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State Noncredit Data Project

Noncredit education and non-degree credentials have grown significantly in community colleges over the past several decades, but very little data exist on their effectiveness. This project will analyze program-level noncredit data to better understand the characteristics of such programs and to develop a taxonomy to guide future data collection efforts.

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XCredit Evaluation

The Education Design Lab, a national higher education nonprofit, launched a three-year initiative in 2021 designed to help workers advance in their careers by documenting and valuing their existing skills. The project, called the XCredit initiative, will be evaluated by the Rutgers Education and Employment Center (EERC).

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CCGEF Evaluation

The Community College Growth Engine Fund (CCGEF) convenes cohorts to design "micro-pathways" at community colleges in support of students' completion and employment success. EERC and the Education Design Lab (EDL) partner to evaluate the program's success through both qualitative surveys and quantitative analysis of outcomes.

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Review of the Evidence on Noncredit Education

EERC is conducting a review of the existing research literature on outcomes from noncredit education.

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Quality and Decision Making in Community College Noncredit Education

An estimated 5 million students enroll in noncredit courses and programs at community and technical colleges each year. This project examines how community colleges ensure quality in noncredit programs and how students make choices about pursuing these credentials.

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Mapping the Non-degree Credential Quality Market

As non-degree credentials (NDC) become increasingly common offerings in the education and training marketplace, the importance of developing systems to ensure their quality is a policy imperative. To create a more systematic approach to NDC quality, this project addresses two overarching questions: Who are the organizational actors in the NDC marketplace? How do they influence quality? This project examines potential influences on NDC quality in the credential marketplace and provides a roadmap of the organizations and initiatives currently involved in overseeing NDC quality. It seeks to contribute to the discussion of how to build on this existing infrastructure to create a more robust and coherent system to promote quality in the NDC marketplace.

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Past Projects on Noncredit Education and Non-Degree Credentials 
Identifying High Quality Industry Certifications

The massive loss of jobs during the pandemic has made industry certifications a critically needed pathway to help people quickly develop new skills. This brief offers guidance on identifying high-quality industry certifications to states and other entities that seek to understand and measure these credentials.

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Lumina Foundation' All Learning Counts Initiative Evaluation

In 2019, the Lumina Foundation awarded $3.5 million in grants to nine organizations nationwide in its All Learning Counts initiative, which seeks to ensure that knowledge, skills and abilities gained outside of formal higher education can be applied to credential programs. A four-year evaluation of this program is being conducted by the Rutgers Education & Employment Research Center and Brandon Roberts + Associates, a public policy consulting firm.

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Pathways for Short Term Credentials

Students seeking short-term, non-degree credentials are more likely to earn certificates if they receive credit for prior learning (CPL). Yet within the Colorado Community College System, just 4 percent of students are using CPL to complete their certificates.

This study, conducted by the Rutgers Education & Employment Research Center (EERC), found that for both traditional students and adult learners over the age of 25, CPL credit had a positive effect in completing a non-degree credential.

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A Review of the Literature on Informal Learning

Learning is often viewed as the product of a traditional school setting. Yet learning also takes place every day across a range of settings — much of it in the workplace.

This study examined the numerous ways that informal learning occurs, the benefits and drawbacks of different forms of informal learning, and the implications for achieving equity.

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Non-Degree Credential Quality: A Conceptual Framework to Guide Measurement

More than one quarter of adults in the United States have some type of non-degree credential, according to a survey by the National Center for Educational Statistics. Yet there is little guidance on how to evaluate the quality of these credentials.

This paper outlines a broad framework to guide the development of standards and processes to measure the quality of non-degree credentials. The paper is intentionally broad to allow stakeholders to identify those elements that are most essential for their purposes while keeping a few key guidelines in mind.

>View more details here.