State Investment in Short-Term Credential Pathways: A Comprehensive Assessment

August 10, 2023

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Title: A Typology and Policy Landscape Analysis of State Investments in Short-term Credential Pathways

Author: Stephanie M. Murphy

Source: HCM Strategists

With a growing demand for short-term credentials—known as microcredentials, sub-baccalaureate credentials, or non-degree credentials—states are quickly taking action to advance these alternative credential pathways for their residents.

However, there has not been systematic cataloging or analysis of state investments in short-term credential pathways. This data gap poses significant challenges in monitoring credential growth, evaluating the influence of non-credit instruction, and devising evidence-based policies and practices.

HCM Strategists conducted a comprehensive assessment of all 50 U.S. states, with a particular focus on quality and equity, to offer a detailed overview of initiatives and policies on these credentials.

Key findings from the examination include:

  • There are 59 state-led initiatives, spread across 28 states, with total investments exceeding $3.81 billion. The initiatives cover a wide spectrum, including direct financial aid to students (27 programs), funding for institutions to support students and reduce tuition expenses (15 programs), capacity-building for short-term credential programs aligned with workforce needs (6 programs), and integrating funding for short-term credentials into outcomes-based funding formulas (5 programs).
  • Twenty-three states have integrated an “equity component” tailored to the unique needs of diverse target populations. Most of these programs have income-based eligibility criteria, providing financial assistance to individuals falling into the “low-income or low-wage” category.
  • Just 11 states have exhibited clear, refined, and explicit language outlining the relevance of short-term credential programs to specific industries, their potential for high-demand, well-paying jobs, and rigorous evaluation standards for program value.

To read the full report, click here.

—Nguyen DH Nguyen

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