As part of a push to help college graduates and those who leave before completing be more employable, a growing number
of institutions are adding professional certifications to degree programs
. Likewise, some experts are calling
for four-year colleges to award associate degrees to students who are halfway to completing their bachelor’s
, so students will have a credential if they don’t make it to graduation.
Credentials As You Go
is a recently created project seeking to develop a nationally recognized incremental credentialing system
. The Lumina Foundation-funded initiative aims to encourage the development of transferrable credentials beyond existing certificates and degrees. SUNY Empire State College has signed onto a pilot version with Rockland and Suffolk Community Colleges, in part to model policy changes that could work at the university-system level.
The goal of the Credentials As You Go is to empower more people to earn high-quality postsecondary credentials as they continue to learn throughout their lives and careers, says Holly Zanville
, senior scholar and co-director of the program on skills, credentials and workforce policy at George Washington University’s Institute of Public Policy.
“The traditional degree-centric system is punitive to many learners,” she says. “It treats students who drop or stop out as if they have no college-level learning despite the growing array of shorter-term credentials they could earn which may be valuable to entering and advancing in the job market.”
The University of Montana
is working to boost
its students’ job readiness and marketability. The flagship public has partnered with Kaplan to offer industry-recognized credentials (Kaplan Credegrees
) in more than 30 tech fields
, including cybersecurity, data science, data literacy, and digital marketing. Alumni and former students also can earn Credegrees.
I reached out to Seth Bodnar
, Montana’s president (a former Rhodes scholar, GE executive, West Point faculty member, and Green Beret) to hear more about the partnership.
“The ultimate goal is that all UM students will graduate with a UM degree, one or more internship opportunities, and an industry-recognized credential,” Bodnar says, adding that “higher education must do a better job at equipping students with ‘in-demand’ applied skills, especially as AI and machine learning advance at breakneck pace, so that they hit the professional ground running on Day One.”
He says the shift is about reimagining the curriculum, not abandoning general education or the liberal arts.
Kaplan will help the university to offer a broad suite of short-term credentials and be able to pivot quickly at a “more than reasonable” cost, says Bodnar. The partnership also enables Montana to white-label offerings to learners beyond university students and alumni, he says, including to up-skillers, job changers, and corporate workforce development partners.
When asked to respond to skepticism about the need to better connect degrees to jobs, and whether this is encouraging learners to take responsibility for training employers should provide:
There is a great quote from the film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men that says, “…you can’t stop what is coming, it ain’t all waiting on you. That’s vanity.” Similarly, students, families, and employers have already spoken, and they are demanding that we do a better job at preparing students for work, plain and simple. As cliché as it may sound, postsecondary education is at a crossroads.
Despite increasing competition from private recruitment and training companies, now Google
, industry leaders still believe that colleges and universities can be the source of such pre-professional skilling. Therefore, colleges and universities currently maintain at least some degree of the public’s trust to make such change happen. However, that window is slowly closing
and colleges and universities ultimately control their own destiny as it concerns such innovation, and ultimately for some, their survival.