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What Can Happen When State Higher Education Agencies Tackle Credential Transparency

Institutions of higher education offer education and training that is vital to the economic prosperity of individuals and regions. As states increasingly look for opportunities to improve transparency of the credentials offered by their institutions, state higher education agencies are working to collect and organize credential data about education and training programs for students, job-seekers, employers, and others to be able to make more informed decisions. The ability to easily find and compare information about credential details like costs, duration, competencies, and outcomes helps citizens choose offerings and pathways best suited to them.

The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO), recently hosted a webinar for its members about how Credential Engine’s technologies and approach can help them improve credential transparency in their states. Dr. Ken Sauer, Senior Associate Commissioner and Chief Academic Officer for the Indiana Commission for Higher Education (CHE), Jillian Scholten  Director of Academic Affairs CHE, Dr. Blake Flanders, CEO and president of the Kansas Board of Regents (KBOR) and Matthew Keith, KBOR Director of Communications served as the event’s featured speakers.

Though Indiana’s and Kansas’ ultimate goal of working with Credential Engine is improved credential transparency and access to that information, both states’ approaches to partnership differ to reflect their needs as well as their unique governance structures.

CHE publishes credential data from its academic program inventory to Credential Engine’s cloud-based Registry by compiling in a spreadsheet the information they currently collect, and working with institutions to add missing information like URLS, program descriptions and additional metrics like competencies and credit hours. With information about more than 3,000 credentials in the Registry, CHE ensures it has shared points of comparison between credentials, demonstrates the scope of Indiana’s credential marketplace, and identifies links between credentials.

Once the data from Indiana’s institutions was published to the Registry, CHE made sure the information was easy to find by creating a widget on its TransferIN website. Students and job-seekers can use the widget to find in-state programs, see which credentials are aligned with Indiana’s Next Level Jobs, and learn more about in-state transfer opportunities. The widget is not the only way Sauer envisions the data being used, though. To promote an open applications marketplace, CHE is planning an “App-athon” in May to bring developers together to begin building out the range of applications that are enabled with open, transparent credential data like creating an easy way for Hoosiers interested in distance learning through the public sector to find relevant information on those programs and compare them and building a tool that shows return on investment data like which postsecondary programs have graduates currently employed in Indiana and the median wages for those workers one year, five years, and 10 years post-graduation.

In contrast to CHE’s approach, KBOR is mapping the data it already collects from their public institutions to the Registry using an API. Kansas can use this strategy because credential data from approximately 2,500 programs across KBOR’s 32 public institutions first goes through KBOR’s KS Degree Stats website, which can be structured to send data straight to the Registry. Flanders and his colleagues prefer this method to others because it ensures data stays current through automatic updates.

KBOR’s use of the Registry to enhance KS Degree Stats will provide Kansans with a frame of reference for comparing credentials that goes beyond degrees offered in the Sunflower State, allowing them to easily see what other states are doing before making decisions. Partnering with Credential Engine also will also help KBOR fill publicly-available information gaps, such as credentials’ costs.

Ultimately, improvements to KS Degree Stats will help Kansas families easily make more informed decisions about what credentials have demand in the workforce nationwide, service members find out what programs fit with their military training, and in-state businesses gain a better understanding of what credentials address the competencies they need their workers to have and where they can acquire them.

As SHEEO and its members work towards improved access to and expansion of states’ postsecondary data systems, a common structure for credential information becomes crucial. Credential Engine’s technologies help states make the most of their credential data, so their residents make better credential comparisons and decisions.