Discusses how states and colleges are achieving “stackability” to optimize credential attainment for people as they prepare to enter the workforce or aim to upgrade their skills to keep a job, advance to a better job, or move from one field of work to another.
“Postsecondary education and credentials are key to economic mobility for individuals and economic competitiveness for our nation…Recent data indicated that professional certifications, licenses, and educational certificates have labor market value, especially for people without a bachelor’s degree and people with professional degrees…Driven by economic mobility and competitiveness concerns, policy leaders at all levels are setting goals for increasing postsecondary credential attainment” (p.1).   

“This paper focuses on one particular innovation: ‘stackable credentials’” (p.2). “The analysis and examples in this paper are based on interviews with state officials in Kentucky, Oregon, Virginia, and Wisconsin and staff from select community and technical colleges in these states” (p.2). This paper also draws on “best practices and challenges in developing stackable credentials identified during four industry panel discussions” (p.3).  Although not intended to be representative of all states and colleges, this study “provides a window into developments in a number of diverse states, as well as emerging approaches to stacking credentials and associated implementation challenges” (p.3).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff).

Major Findings & Recommendations

“The states and colleges highlighted in this paper are pursuing the following five strategies to create stackable credentials to help students, workers, and job seekers” (p.4): • “Modularize existing applied associate degree and technical diploma programs” (p.4). • “Embed existing industry and professional certifications in career and technical programs” (p.4). • “Streamline and scale processes for awarding credit for learning represented by non-collegiate credentials” (p.5). • “Create ‘lattice credentials’ that allow students to move both up a career ladder within an occupational field or across multiple pathways in a career lattice” (p.5). • “Create dual enrollment options that enable students to work concurrently toward a high school diploma or its equivalency, marketable postsecondary credentials, and industry certifications” (p.6). (Abstractor: Author)