Noncredit Research Collaborative

A Snapshot of the Shifting Landscape of Noncredit Community College Education

Abstract

Noncredit workforce education conveys workrelevant skills in a wide range of industries. Courses and programs are provided by community and technical colleges to an estimated five million students annually (American Association of Community Colleges, 2021), and national survey data show that as much as one-quarter of adults hold a noncredit certificate, license, or other vocational award (Cronen, McQuiggan & Isenberg, 2017). Noncredit programs vary in length, and they may or may not lead to a non-degree credential. When credentials are granted, they are either awarded by the college through which the program was offered (often the case with certificates) or earned through an industry sponsored assessment (more common in the cases of certifications or professional licenses). While there has been a substantial increase in interest in these programs among both students and policymakers in recent years, little research is available on their value or economic return.