Giving Credit Where Credit is Due
Apr 19, 2011
By Heath Prince
There is a disconnect between the nation's postsecondary and education and training systems that can get in the way of students earning postsecondary credentials.
An adult can acquire noncredit, high quality education and training to become more marketable in a particular field. But if that same person later chooses to pursue a postsecondary credential, he may have to repeat some of the education and training he already obtained. This is because the postsecondary education system lacks a standard method for determining the value of occupational education and training that takes place outside postsecondary institutions.
This disconnect suggests a gaping hole in education policy, as well as in employment and training policy. The challenge for the nation is to devise a competency-based framework within which states and institutions can award educational credit for skills and learning mastered through formal and informal occupational education and training. CLASP researchers in conjunction with the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce's Keith Bird explore this challenge in the new report, Giving Credit Where Credit is Due: Creating a Competency-Based Qualifications Framework for Postsecondary Education and Training.
Educational credit based on competence could result in postsecondary credentials that are portable, accepted by multiple postsecondary institutions, and recognized across industry sectors. This could also bridge the gulf between credit-bearing and noncredit-bearing workforce education and training programs, and make occupational credentials more transparent and relevant to employers, workers, and educational institutions. If students can earn postsecondary educational credit by demonstrating competencies, they wouldn't have to repeat learning, it would become easier for them to obtain a postsecondary credential, and it would be irrelevant from what kind of institution they received the credit.
This sort of competency-based system would serve students and the nation well. We know that postsecondary credentials are key to self-sufficiency, greater civic participation, and family economic well-being. A more educated workforce creates stronger communities as well.
Policymakers have recognized the need for a workforce that is better prepared to compete in the global economy. The Obama Administration, for example, has established a national goal to dramatically expand the number of high-quality postsecondary credentials awarded over the near term. And the foundation community has increased investments in postsecondary and economic success.
It will not be easy to create a competency-based system within which states and institutions can award educational credit. But it can be done. Giving Credit Where Credit is Due offers a set of policy recommendations for meeting this national challenge.