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Dive Brief:

  • Credential providers should immediately publish data about their costs, associated earnings, completion rates and other factors to help students understand whether their programs have equitable outcomes. 
  • That’s according to Credential Engine, a nonprofit working to make information about learning and career pathways easily available. In a new report, the organization’s equity advisory council also said data should be disaggregated by student factors like income, gender, and race and ethnicity. 
  • Researchers broke recommended data points into three levels — those they should post now, those they should be working toward publicizing soon and those that will take long-term capacity building to publish.

Dive Insight:

The higher ed sector offered almost 1.1 million unique credentials as of December, and their outcomes vary widely. Credential Engine’s report offers guidance for providers on how to demonstrate their programs lead to equal outcomes for students of all backgrounds.

Credential providers should immediately be able to share how much their programs cost, their duration, the number of credits they require to complete, and graduates’ earnings, the report said. They should also share academic advising options and transfer pathways available to students.

In the near future, providers should publish their graduates’ debt-to-earnings ratio, how their credentials can stack, and their programs’ accreditation status if applicable.

Students should easily be able to see if programs offer different learning modalities. And they should know the average length of time it takes credential holders to find their first jobs, the report said.

The report also set long-term data goals for providers that will require planning and capacity building, many of which center on credit mobility and student transfer pathways. 

Credential providers should offer students the ability to run “what if” scenarios using real time data so they can learn how to maximize the benefits of their credits, the report said. Providers should also be able to show how many of their program credits are accepted by other institutions and companies.

Other long-term data goals include advisor-to-student ratio and information about job placements in students’ desired fields.

For all students to succeed at the same rates, information has to be both readily available and used, the report said.

“This implicates not only the owners and providers of credentials and competencies, but also commitment from companies, states and other entities that play a role in putting data into the hands of people to best equip them to make their most informed decisions with the goal of helping them reach equitable outcomes,” the organization said.