Cover: Community Colleges Can Increase Credential Stacking by Introducing New Programs Within Established Technical Pathways

Community Colleges Can Increase Credential Stacking by Introducing New Programs Within Established Technical Pathways

Published in: The Journal of Higher Education (2023). doi: 10.1080/00221546.2023.2171211

Posted on rand.org Feb 14, 2023

by Drew M. Anderson, Lindsay Daugherty

"Stackable" credentials offer opportunities for college students to start by earning short-term credentials in vocational and technical fields, then stack additional credentials as they progress in careers, building skills in the classroom and in the workforce. Stackable credentials come at a cost: colleges expend resources in developing and offering stackable credential programs, students pay to enroll, and government aid programs support colleges and students. Given these investments, it is important to know whether stackable programs generate value for students and local economies. This study analyzes the introduction of new certificate or associate degree program options at Ohio community colleges during school years 2004–2005 to 2016–2017. Comparing among students who had just completed a credential, the students whose college had an additional program within their field of study were more likely to re-enroll and earn additional credentials within two years. The additional short-term enrollment did not significantly decrease students' participation in employment or transfers to a university, indicating that stackable credentials fit with their career and educational progression.

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