Noncredit Research Collaborative

Virginia Community College System (VCCS) Noncredit Data Snapshot

Abstract

Today, more than two-thirds of US adults considering further education report that they prefer a non-degree option—up from about one-half prior to the pandemic. With growing interest and investment in opportunities for short-term flexible options to prepare individuals for the workforce, it is essential to cultivate a better understanding of noncredit education and non-degree credentials. Despite the importance of this information, multiple analyses have shown that only about three-quarters of states collect data on their noncredit programming.

Furthermore, state-level data collection on non-degree credentials (such as certificates, certifications, licensure, badges, and microcredentials) varies widely and is still under development in many locations.

Key findings on noncredit offerings and enrollment include the following:

  • Occupational training represented around 80 percent of all noncredit offerings and enrollments in VCCS.
  • Females represented higher enrollments in noncredit education overall (54% vs. 39%), as well as in each specific type of noncredit education (e.g., occupational training, pre-college), with the largest gender gap in pre-college (66% vs. 28%).
  • When removing those for whom sex/gender data were missing, females comprised 58 percent of noncredit enrollments. By comparison, females comprised 57 percent of for-credit community college students in Virginia, thus showing near equal representation.
  • The strong focus on occupational training among noncredit enrollees was consistent in each gender and racial subgroup.
  • Approximately 7 percent of noncredit enrollees in 2020–2021 did not have a reported sex/gender in the state data system, and more than two-thirds had missing values for race on average. The level of missingness for race was especially high for pre-college, where more than 90 percent of the enrollees were missing race information. There are many potential reasons for missingness, including a simplified admission process for noncredit training that might not require students to report demographics and contract training designed for employers who may not provide demographics for all participants.
  • With the majority of enrollments not having a specified race in the system, it is difficult to draw conclusions on enrollment patterns. However, for those records including race, the enrollments seemed to be somewhat similar to credit enrollments in the VCCS, where 70 percent of credit enrollees were White, 15 percent Black, 7 percent Hispanic, and 2 percent Asian.