Credential Transparency

7/1/2021

States are focusing on high-value credentials that lead to future employment or education as a key element of economic recovery. In this time of rapid workplace change, states and postsecondary institutions have a responsibility to provide timely, useful information about degree options and pathways that prepare students for jobs needed in their communities.

With nearly 1 million unique credentials in the U.S., including diplomas, certificates, degrees, apprenticeships, and licenses, it is often difficult for a student to understand the courses and programs of study or training they need to take to be prepared for their target career. Moreover, employers lack clarity about what skills workers bring to a job, and educators are challenged to keep up with changing requirements in the workplace.

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis are putting a premium on upskilling—giving workers new skills to meet new workforce demands—and on greater transparency around the skills and knowledge required for in-demand jobs. While 45 states have set attainment goals, most lack robust systems of information related to the credentials available within a state, including the credential program’s length and cost, competencies and job skills included in the credential, career pathway information, and earnings and employment outcomes.State legislators are acting to ensure that information about credentials can be easily accessed, compared, and connected to other education and workforce data.

State Actions 

Information for Students About Available Credentials

  • Arkansas SB 397 (2021) creates the Higher Education Consumer Guide Act, designed for use by prospective students and parents and legal guardians of prospective students at a state-supported institution of higher education, to include retention and graduation rates; cost of tuition; average amount borrowed and loan default rate; job placement of students within the first three years of graduation; income of college alumni over the first twenty years after completion of their credential; and average number of semesters for completion of an associate's or bachelor's credential at the institution.
  • Connecticut SB 1202 (2021) requires the Office of Workforce Strategy to establish standards to designate certain credentials as “credentials of value.” These standards may include (1) meeting the workforce needs of Connecticut’s employers, (2) completion rates, (3) net cost, (4) whether the credential transfers to or stacks onto another credential of value, (5) average time to completion, and (6) types of employment opportunities and earnings available upon completion. The state’s chief workforce officer is to submit a biennial report about (1) in-demand credential and skills that lead to quality jobs, and (2) models and examples of associate degree programs that result in students earning an industry-recognized credential in twelve months that is a pathway to one or more bachelor’s degree programs. By January 1, 2023, the Office of Higher Education must create a database of the credentials offered in Connecticut explaining the skills and competencies earned through a credential in uniform terms and plain language using the uniform terms, descriptions, and standards for comparing and linking credentials in Credential Engine’s Credential Transparency Description Language.
  • Kansas HB 2085 (2021) enacts the Students Right To Know Act to provide information on postsecondary education options and information to each student or each student's parents regarding degree prospectus, training information program report, and other information relevant to students understanding of potential earnings.
  • Kentucky HB 419 (2020) requires the Council on Postsecondary Education to annually compile data on in-demand jobs within the state and for each public postsecondary instruction, and each campus of the Community and Technical College System, to compile data relating to student successes and costs, and requires the council to develop a delivery method to ensure access to information by prospective students.
  • West Virginia SB 303 (2020) enacts the Students Right to Know Act to help high school students make more informed decisions about their futures and ensure they are adequately aware of the costs and benefits of certificate programs, vocational programs, two year college, four year college, and other alternative career paths.

Identification of High-Value Credentials

  • Michigan SB 268 (2020) creates the Michigan Reconnect Grant Act providing a financial aid program for certain residents seeking associate degrees of industry-recognized credentials from certain educational and jobs training programs. The bill defines a credential as a certificate or credential that is portable and is sought or accepted by multiple employers within an industry for purposes of recruitment, hiring, or promotion.
  • Minnesota SF 2415 (2019) includes requirements that the commissioner of the Office of Higher Education must administer a credential completion program for adult learners as part of the Minnesota Reconnect Program.
  • Utah SB 131 (2018) requires the development and analysis of credential programs including stackable credentials.

Sunny Deye is a program director at NCSL.

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