- Prospective students interested in nondegree credentials can look to a new online directory of more than 200 companies and other organizations providing apprenticeships, boot camps, short-term online courses and other credentials.
- Called Alternatives to College, the directory was launched as a joint effort between leaders at higher ed investment firm University Ventures and WhatsBestForMe, a platform for applicants to connect with postsecondary education providers.
- "The last-mile training sector moves quickly," said Cassidy Leventhal, a vice president at University Ventures, in the announcement, adding that the directory will provide an "online 'home'" for nondegree options.
The directory was originally featured in "A New U: Faster and Cheaper Alternatives to College," a book written by Ryan Craig, the co-founder and managing director of University Ventures.
In the book, which was released last year, Craig argues that alternative postsecondary education providers will displace some traditional higher ed institutions that don't adapt to the changing needs of employers. So far, he contends, most colleges have done a poor job of incorporating in-demand skills into their curriculum, leaving students to struggle to find good first jobs when they graduate.
As such, a marketplace has emerged that aims to train both high school graduates seeking alternative educational pathways and college graduates who want new skills that will land them better jobs. The directory aims to provide both of those groups with an "open place" to access information about college alternatives, Leventhal told Education Dive in an interview.
The programs in the directory were selected by scouring news articles, research reports and other sources, Leventhal said. They may add more information to the directory in the future, she continued, such as a program's financing options and data on completion rates and starting salaries.
Moreover, the directory's programs go beyond the skilled trades, which are often associated with alternative postsecondary education, Leventhal said. Prospective students can also find programs in fields such as hospitality, sales, cybersecurity and data science.
"We're trying to show that these alternative pathways are for every single industry that's digitizing in the next five to 10 years," she said.
Indeed, the alternative credential marketplace is vast and growing. In 2018, more than 20,300 students completed a coding boot camp, up from about 16,900 the previous year, according to Course Report. Around that same time, there were roughly 585,000 registered apprenticeships and more than 11,000 MOOCs — both of which have grown in recent years.
The Alternatives to College directory joins other efforts to help students navigate those options. But a wide array of choices and a lack of information on student outcomes can make it difficult for prospective students to determine which programs will pay off in the job market.
In response, Credential Engine, a nonprofit that aims to bring transparency to the credential marketplace, is working with six other education companies — including Credly, BrightHive and Credential Commons — to translate data about their programs into a common language so students can more easily compare options.