Noncredit Research Collaborative

Its Own Standard: Approaches to Quality in Community College Noncredit Workforce Education


Community colleges are a major source of non-degree credentials (NDCs) through their noncredit workforce education offerings. NDCs include certificates, certifications, licenses, badges, and micro-redentials (Credential Engine, 2019). Colleges award certificates and also prepare students to obtain certifications and licensure. Noncredit education has long been a part of community colleges across the nation, with enrollment levels almost matching credit enrollments (AACC, 2021; Jacoby, 2021). Credentials earned in noncredit programs are gaining increasing attention for their potential to provide swift access to career opportunities. Some have argued that noncredit programs may also expand the accessibility of higher education for students who have not attended college before and need shorter and more flexible postsecondary opportunities (Grubb, Badway, & Bell, 2003; Van Noy et al., 2008; D’Amico et al., 2019). Since the pandemic, increasing numbers of adults nationally report they prefer non-degree pathways that can be completed quickly to degree programs (Strada, 2020; Cengage, 2022). At the same time, a rising number of states have become interested in supporting NDCs. In this context, it is imperative to better understand if these programs and credentials are a worthwhile investment of time and resources.