College admissions are falling, but we’re seeing a substantial increase in enrollment for “micro-credentials” – small, less expensive, career focused, certifications that can be gained quickly, both in and out of traditional colleges.
“Two in five working-age adults have completed a non-degree credential and more than 80 percent of executives, supervisors, and HR professionals now say that alternative credentials bring value to the workplace,” Jobs For The Future’s chief strategy officer recently wrote in eCampus News. “Over the past decade, the number of such offerings has sharply risen. There now exist at least 1 million different credentials, spanning apprenticeships, certificates, digital badges, industry-recognized certifications, and licenses.”
This represents a significant opportunity for educational equity — but also a potential danger for consumers.
The Opportunity To Transition Your Career With Fast Certifications
There’s good reasons for this shift. Recent studies have shown that micro-credentials and certifications can be a substantial benefit to someone’s career. At the same time, those same studies show that the kind of certification you get makes a big difference, both in terms of costs and benefits. Happily, the most accessible certifications also tend to have the best outcomes: public institutions, like community colleges, which offer easily obtained low-cost credentials for technical training, offer the best value by far.
That means, as Rusty Greiff of JFF notes, “By allowing learners to access faster, lower-cost pathways to career advancement, microcredentials also have the power to act as one part of the solution to long-standing inequities in education and the workforce.”
Predatory For-Profit Colleges Are The Worst Option
Greiff believes that certifications and micro-credentials are poised to grow exponentially in the near future. There’s a downside to that, however: the same predatory, for-profit, colleges that prey on the economically vulnerable are likely to get into certifications and micro-credentials, too. Studies show that for-profit colleges often exploit the students who can afford it least, many of whom would have been better off if they’d never enrolled at all.
Certifications and micro-credentials can only serve to benefit educational equity if they come with more opportunity than cost. As certifications and micro-credentials grow, we need to make sure that the best options are accessible to the people who need them most.
Valuable Job Certifications in Technology, Free to Californians
That’s why Calbright exists, to make sure that Californians have a public option for education that makes high value certifications accessible to everyone. Whatever someone’s career goals — whether they’re just out of high school or an experienced worker looking to make a career shift — they should have high quality, low-cost, options to help them get there.