News, Policy Brief

New Policy Brief: Making Information About Credentials More Actionable Through Increased Transparency and Quality Assurance

State policymakers are prioritizing high-quality, demand-driven career pathways to postsecondary credentials that lead to in-demand, high-wage jobs. The country’s economic recovery requires it and places a premium on knowledge and skills that meet industry needs. But to do it well, states need systems that reliably identify programs that actually help learners earn those credentials, attain in-demand skills, and lead to jobs that pay family-sustaining wages. In other words, we need transparent quality assurance embedded in these pathways and credential opportunities.

Our new Policy Brief offers state leaders a set of actions to make information about the quality of credentials more accessible, valuable, and useful. It is co-authored alongside Education Quality Outcomes Standards Board (EQOS), Education Strategy Group (ESG), and National Skills Coalition (NSC), but the brief stems from our larger policy partnership including 8 additional organizations.

Many states are already collecting data on credentials from degree-granting and non-degree-granting providers. But most state leaders desire quality information to improve decision making from the State Capitol to the classroom and to the kitchen table of individual opportunity seekers. Quality information is timely, comparable, reliable, and useful. Decision makers at all levels require quality data around job opportunities, skill and knowledge demands, and which credentials and pathways to pursue. Providing decision makers at all levels with frameworks to describe the attributes of a quality credential is one that requires partnership across state policymakers and with other stakeholders such as employers, education and training providers, advocates, and accreditors.

The Value of Credential Transparency Rises Exponentially When It Includes Assurances of Quality

Recently, several organizations, including ESG, EQOS, and NSC have been developing frameworks to contribute to the conversations around credentials’ value and quality. They are collaborating with Credential Engine to map their quality assurance frameworks to the Credential Transparency Description Language (CTDL). This will ensure that no matter which framework is used by a state, it will be available in a consistent, common language. States will also be able to more easily highlight credentials of value and compare their results through the Credential Registry.

In the model above, ESG, EQOS, and NSC offer an emerging description of the quality assurance process so that state policymakers better understand the opportunities to support quality information about credentials of value. The components captured in the descriptions and graphic below are illustrative of the phases that organizations working with states have identified as necessary to develop a shared definition of quality credentials and the policies to nurture an effective and efficient labor market. (Read the full brief for an in-depth exploration of each piece of the Credential Transparency & Quality Assurance Process).

Recommended State Policymaker Actions

As outlined in the State Roadmap and Action Guide for Transparency, state policy leaders play a vital role in advancing credential transparency as a critical part of their larger economic and education strategy. The Roadmap’s step four encourages state policy leaders to integrate transparency with efforts aimed at quality, attainment goals, equity and affordability. State policymakers can support quality assurance of credentials through various actions, five of which are outlined in the Policy Brief and are supported by real state practices. For example, state leaders can (1) prioritize and coordinate efforts to assure credential transparency and quality, (2) require that outcomes are published on public open source portals, and (3) support the creation of tools, services and systems with robust navigation and guidance capabilities that incorporate quality assurance measures.

If you would like more information regarding the contents of this brief, the overall State Policy Partnership, or about Credential Transparency, then please contact Scott Cheney, CEO of Credential Engine, at scheney@credentialengine.org.