States Can Take Steps to Address Potential Barriers to Equity in Stackable Credential Pipelines
Apr 13, 2023
The authors examine whether low-income individuals are stacking credentials and benefiting economically. They also explore four systemic barriers to equity in stackable credential pipelines, including limited opportunities to stack credentials in some fields and in some institutions, insufficient information to identify and stack credentials of value, and challenges moving from noncredit to credit programs.
Evidence from Colorado and Ohio
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Federal, state, and local initiatives have encouraged education and training providers to build stackable credentials, a series of postsecondary credentials that can be earned over time and that build on each other to prepare individuals for different needs for knowledge and skills throughout a career. By offering flexible pathways that allow individuals to earn credentials incrementally and work as they earn credentials, stackable credentials can advance economic and educational opportunity for low-income individuals and other groups that have not been well served in traditional degree programs. However, there is limited evidence on whether low-income individuals are benefiting from stacking credentials and whether low-income individuals face systemic barriers to equity within stackable credential pipelines.
In this report, the authors take a mixed methods approach to examining stackable credential equity in Colorado and Ohio, two states pursuing stackable credential initiatives. The authors analyzed administrative data to describe patterns in credential-stacking and in earnings for low-income individuals relative to middle- and high-income individuals. They identify four potential systemic barriers to equity within stackable credential pipelines and interview key stakeholders to learn more about factors contributing to these barriers and discuss options to ensure equitable opportunities to stack credentials across fields of study and institutions.
Background and Study Aims
Our Study Approach
Evidence on Credential-Stacking and Labor Market Outcomes by Income
Evidence on Systemic Barriers to Equity in Stackable Credential Pipelines
Takeaways for States, Systems, and Institutions on Stackable Credentials and Equity
Detailed Description of Data and Methods
This study was sponsored by Ascendium Education Group and conducted by RAND Education and Labor in collaboration with the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education at the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor.
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