Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States was amid a major equity crisis. Education has been heralded as the great equalizer with the value of a college degree becoming the clearest path to the American Dream. Yet, for decades there have been barriers that continue to create disproportionate access and wide gaps in educational attainment for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC).
A new Policy Brief stemming from our partnership with eleven other organizations explores how access to better credential information can be a useful tool for equity. States, policymakers, and leaders should actively work to eliminate barriers that hinder the ability for BIPOC to take advantage of their options, and this brief offers various tips and state examples to inform policy and practice.
Many states have set forth their own goals for postsecondary attainment, often focusing on increasing attainment for BIPOC. But those state attainment goals will only become a reality if states have the data needed to explore and fix the policies and practices that have contributed to inequitable outcomes. Credential transparency can help uncover: Who lacks access to opportunity and why? Which populations have and are being underserved by education and training systems? How have state policies served to limit access? Which populations have been tracked into differential credentials and why? How can the credential attainment, employment, and earning prospects be improved for BIPOC?
Credential Transparency and better credential data can help state leaders more efficiently and effectively work toward their educational attainment and workforce goals while also informing how to dismantle systems that have created the inequities we see today.
We envision credential transparency as a common good, and an important investment to help states meet their equity goals. But using credential transparency to remedy inequities also requires commitment from state leaders and policymakers to unearth and dismantle systems that have created the inequities we see today. Structural racism and systemic inequities cannot be fixed by solely providing individuals better access to information, but it is an effective way of helping to remedy the lack of access to opportunity that afflicts Black, Indigenous, and people of color. Ensuring that everyone has equal access to quality information—while not a panacea for addressing all the structural racism and systemic inequities that afflict Black, Indigenous, and people of color—is a critical first step to addressing inequities. Credential transparency helps state leaders uncover, understand, and work to solve inequities, while also providing individuals with increased agency to find, understand, and compare opportunities to advance along their education and career pathways.
This policy brief also includes examples from four states: Alabama, Kansas, Minnesota, and New Jersey. Their examples demonstrate how policymakers and state leaders use credential transparency to meet larger state goals and advance equity.