As federal and state governments mull whether to expand subsidies for short-term credential programs, much of the attention has focused on what this would mean for students who attend community colleges.
Yet four-year universities also are poised to bulk up their short-term offerings, including through partnerships
with online program management companies or with their own professional and continuing education divisions.
The University of Washington’s Continuum College is an established and innovative player in this space. With a range of offerings that are designed to stretch across a career—what Continuum calls its 60-year curriculum
—the college served about 50,000 students
during the 2019-20 academic year.
Applications have grown steadily in its 94 noncredit professional certificate programs, with 11,539 total enrollments in those courses last year. The most popular certificates at Continuum this year so far are:
- Game Design (new)
- E-learning Instructional Design (new … also, meta)
- Professional Technical Writing (new)
- Storytelling & Content Strategy
- UX & Visual Interface Design (new)
- Program Management
Being offered online is part of the draw for game design and some of the other popular programs. The college also features scholarships
for many of its certificates. And instructors in the programs often work for high-profile companies, including Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Nordstrom, and AT&T.
is vice provost for Continuum College. He oversees all of the flagship UW’s professional and continuing education programs. Branon says some students last year said they were postponing enrolling in certificate courses until they understood how the pandemic would affect their lives and the job market.
“We are preparing for a slightly higher-than-normal fall attendance this year as more people realize that some jobs are not coming back and, increasingly, that some jobs are not worth holding even if they are back,” Branon says.
Branon recently spoke with me about short-term certificates, the divide between
noncredit and credit-bearing programs, and more. Click over to Work Shift to read the Q&A
. But here’s a teaser from Branon:
“Each era sees the limit of scale through the lens of the historical moment. It is quite feasible, however, that as soon as 10 years from now, we will talk about those ‘quaint 50,000-student’ research institutions as a smaller, more human version of the million-plus-student mega universities we see potentially emerging (in the same way those of us at a 50,000 institution today might talk about a 1,500-student liberal arts school).”