Louisiana becomes fourth state to adopt National Skills Coalition’s criteria on quality non-degree credentials

By Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield, September 29, 2020

On September 23, Louisiana’s Board of Regents became the fourth state to adopt National Skills Coalition’s criteria on quality non-degree credentials, building on their participation in NSC’s Quality Postsecondary Credentials State Policy Academy.

A leadership team comprised of representatives of the Louisiana Board of Regents, Louisiana Community and Technical College System, Louisiana Workforce Commission, Louisiana Economic Development and Louisiana Department of Education, along with various other agencies and organizations, has developed criteria to define quality credentials for Louisiana. For Louisiana, a certificate or industry-based certification will be considered a quality postsecondary credential of value if it meets the consensus criteria and leads directly to an occupation that, at a minimum, maintains a 20% wage premium over a high school diploma in Louisiana.

Their work is particularly timely as states are looking to develop quality training programs in response to COVID-19’s impact on the economy. The consensus criteria were developed through NSC’s work with agency leaders from twelve states and national workforce and higher education stakeholders. The criteria should allow state policymakers to be comfortable supporting these programs with public funds as the economy recovers from the COVID-19 recession, students to be confident about selecting high-quality training, and employers to understand which programs are effectively preparing students for careers.

Louisiana also developed two categories of credentials through this process, acknowledging that individuals start their postsecondary pathways at different points: “Quality Postsecondary Credentials of Value” and “On-Ramp Credentials.” Though an on-ramp credential does not meet credential of value standards, it provides a means for individuals with lower skills to get on a training pathway and build toward a higher-level credential. Colorado and Oregon are also considering operationalizing an on-ramp credential definition.

Through the Academy, state agency teams from six states are working together to advance a high-quality postsecondary skills strategy so more residents can attain quality credentials. The four consensus criteria that should be considered for a credential to be identified as quality are: 1) evidence of substantial job opportunities; 2) evidence of the competencies mastered by credential holders; and 3) evidence of the employment and earnings outcomes of individuals after obtaining the credential. The fourth criterion is that the credentials would ideally stack to additional education or training.

To date, Alabama, Colorado, Louisiana, and Oregon have adopted the consensus quality criteria with NSC’s assistance. The criteria have been adjusted to account for the unique needs and circumstances of each state.

Oregon’s multi-stakeholder Adult Learner Advisory Committee, a part of Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Committee,including staff from relevant agencies and leaders from the community formally adopted the criteria over the summer and is now operationalizing the definition. The state is trying to discern whether to use the Self Sufficiency Standard developed by the University of Washington, as part of its wage threshold criteria. The Standard is a budget-based measure of the real cost of living and an alternative to the official poverty measure. Oregon leaders find it better captureshousing costs.

Colorado’s policy academy team, which includes multiple government, community stakeholders, and NSC’s local partner, Colorado Skills2Compete, has adopted the criteria and is considering using the MIT Living Wage calculator in discerning adequate wage gains as evidence of sufficient earnings outcomes. Colorado also added an additional criterion—portability—as has Oregon.

Like Louisiana, Alabama included stakeholders from different government education and workforce agencies in the adoption of their its criteria, which is led by Governor Kay Ivey’s Office of Education and Workforce Transformation. Alabama’s Committee on Credentialing and Career Pathways adopted the NSC consensus criteria, as well as a requirement of portability across or within an industry sector to create their Compendium of Valuable Credentials, or list of quality credentials. Like the other states, Alabama sees its quality credential work helping the state meet its goal of adding 500,000 credential holders to the workforce by 2025.