Noncredit Research Collaborative

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With support from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics/National Science Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rutgers Education and Employment Research Center (EERC) and key partners
at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, University of Michigan, and University of California–Irvine are working with state leaders from across the country to examine noncredit data in the service of three key goals:

  • Develop an inventory of and consistent operational definitions for state-level noncredit data elements to better understand the noncredit data infrastructure.
  • Collect and examine noncredit course/program-level data to better understand those offerings and their associations with enrollment rates, outcomes, instructional characteristics, and funding arrangements.
  • Uncover the drivers of noncredit offerings and produce relevant policy implications.

In addition to this analysis, the project convenes a National Learning Community of states on data for noncredit education and non-degree credentials. This project seeks to lay the groundwork for a common definitional language for future data collection and analysis efforts to improve the understanding of the value and quality of noncredit programs and non-degree credentials.

Across the country, as technology continues to advance rapidly, the labor market exhibits a growing need for workers who receive frequent and ongoing skill development. Employers in many fields struggle to find adequately trained workers to meet their needs. Community college noncredit career and technical education (CTE) programs are an important contributor to skill and workforce development and help to close this “skills gap.”

This brief summarizes early findings from a study of FastForward, which uses a pay-for-performance model to fund noncredit CTE programs at the 23 colleges in the Virginia Community College System. FastForward aims to increase the supply of workers who receive credentials for high-demand occupations in Virginia. The FastForward study is focused on identifying institutional and programmatic factors that may influence learners’ academic and labor market outcomes. This brief presents findings on the different approaches used by colleges and programs to deliver training, student and staff experiences in these CTE programs, and students’ academic and labor market outcomes.

We use administrative data on millions of noncredit and credit students in Iowa and California community colleges to examine the most common enrollment patterns among community college entrants, students who first enrolled exclusively in noncredit education, and students who first enrolled in noncredit education and then later enrolled in credit coursework.

Many public workforce training programs lead to industry-recognized, third-party awarded credentials, but little research has been conducted on the economic benefits of these credentials in the labor market. This paper provides quasi-experimental evidence on the labor market returns to industry-recognized credentials connected to community college workforce noncredit training programs. Based on novel data that includes approximately 24,000 working-age adults enrolled in noncredit workforce training programs at the Virginia Community College System, we employ a comparative individual-level fixed effects model to estimate earnings premia net of fixed attributes and earnings time-trends. Our results indicate that earning an industry-recognized credential, on average, increases quarterly earnings by approximately $1,000 and the probability of being employed by 2.4 percentage points, although there is substantial heterogeneity in economic return across different program fields. Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that the earnings gains associated with the industry credential obtained through the noncredit workforce training would exceed program costs in just over half a year on average.

Noncredit education and non-degree credentials (NDCs) are increasingly valued by students and policymakers. Yet data in this field is scarce and findings on student
outcomes are limited and difficult to interpret and compare. This study reviews a core group of articles on noncredit and NDC outcomes, focusing on completion, wages, and employment.

With rapid technological advances, the U.S. labor market exhibits a growing need for more frequent and ongoing skill development. Community college noncredit career and technical education (CTE) programs that allow students to complete workforce training and earn credentials play an essential role in providing workers with the skills they need to compete for jobs in high-demand fields. Yet, there is a dearth of research on these programs because noncredit students are typically not included in state and national postsecondary datasets. In this guest blog for CTE Month, researchers Di Xu, Benjamin Castleman, and Betsy Tessler discuss their IES-funded exploration study in which they build on a long-standing research partnership with the Virginia Community College System and leverage a variety of data sources to investigate the Commonwealth’s FastForward programs. These programs are noncredit CTE programs designed to lead to an industry-recognized credential in one of several high-demand fields identified by the Virginia Workforce Board.

This is the trancription of Dr. Peter Bahr’s conversation with Meni Sarris his podcast, The Education Beyond Degrees. Read their conversation about Dr. Bahr’s research and how the overlap of serving our communities and higher education has become critical as the needs of our students change.

Industry-recognized certificates are one of the most common credential types associated with public workforce training programs, but little research has been conducted on the economic benefits of these credentials in the labor market. This paper provides one of the the first quasi-experimental evidence on the labor market returns to industry-recognized credentials connected to community college workforce noncredit training programs. Based on a novel data that includes approximately 24,000 working-age adults enrolled in noncredit workforce training programs at the Virginia Community College System, we estimate an individual-level fixed effects model to estimate earnings premia net of fixed attributes and earnings time-trends. Our results indicate that earning an industry-recognized credential on average increases quarterly earnings by approximately $1,000 and the probability of being employed by 2.4 percentage points, although there is substantial heterogeneity in economic return across different fields of study. We also find that the noncredit workforce training programs enroll a different segment of the population than credit-bearing programs at community colleges, thus providing an important alternative pathway to workforce opportunities for populations traditionally underrepresented in the credit-bearing sector.

This report presents initial findings from a comprehensive study being undertaken to examine noncredit CTE programs offered within the Virginia Community College System (VCCS). In 2016, the Virginia legislature, through HB66, passed legislation to expand participation in community college noncredit CTE programs. These programs are commonly known in Virginia as “FastForward” programs. A key component of this initiative is an innovative funding mechanism, the New Economy Workforce Credential Grant (WCG), which is a cost-sharing pay for-performance model (described in more detail below). The programs covered under this initiative are those that lead to an industry-recognized credential in a high-demand field; our analyses focus on this subset of eligible “FastForward programs.” We capitalize on this data to generate additional robust evidence about the academic and labor market outcomes of students enrolled in FastForward programs. In this report, we focus on our analyses related to participant composition, program success, and the relationship between noncredit and credit enrollment.