- Fifteen higher ed groups have signed a statement calling on colleges and universities to describe their credentials more transparently.
- The organizations, which include the American Council on Education and the American Association of Community Colleges, are asking their members to develop a common language for discussing their credentials and to share that information in a widely-accessible, cloud-based registry.
- They hope doing so will help institutions better explain the value of the credentials they offer and address what the groups see as a need for better documentation, standardization and transferability of education across the sector.
Another motivation for using a common language to discuss credentials is helping learners find programs and make better-informed choices about which ones to pursue.
"As we look to bolster public confidence in our higher education system and improve student outcomes, colleges and universities should embrace credential transparency principles," ACE President Ted Mitchell said in a statement. "These principles will be integral in ensuring that quality learning is connected and counted."
There are more than 730,000 unique credentials in the U.S., according to one count by Credential Engine, a nonprofit that hosts an online database of credentials. It is trying to track and standardize the credentials market.
That figure includes traditional degrees as well as certificates, boot camps, badges and other nondegree credentials. Nondegree options are a big part of the number. Credential Engine's estimate of the number of unique credentials in the U.S. more than doubled after it included certificates and badges for 2019, a year later.
Postsecondary institutions account for just over half the credentials offered in Credential Engine's latest tally of the market, while around 43% come from nonacademic organizations.
In a 2016 report, 94% of 190 colleges and universities surveyed said they offer some kind of alternative credentials. One in five institutions said they issue digital badges, most often in business fields.
The higher ed groups' announcement is not the first coordinated effort to get credential providers talking about their courses and programs in similar ways. Earlier this year, Credential Engine and six education companies announced they were partnering to find a common vernacular for describing credentials.
And the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities is working with American National Standards Institute affiliate Workcred and the University Professional and Continuing Education Association to help colleges and credentialing organizations improve and standardize their credentialing systems.