WDQC scan reveals that states are making progress in measuring non-degree credential attainment

By Jenna Leventoff, May 14, 2018

A new 50-state scan from WDQC, “Measuring Non-Degree Credential Attainment“, shows that states are making progress collecting data about non-degree credential attainment, including certificates, industry certifications, and licenses. Realizing that non-degree credentials can lead to strong employment outcomes, many states now have education attainment goals that include non-degree credentials of value. The case studies in this scan can help states measure progress toward these goals.

In order to measure progress on educational attainment, states need data about non-degree credential attainment. Although states may have data about credential attainment from national surveys, WDQC’s scan asked states if they had data from administrative records, which result from the administration of a program and are more accurate than surveys. Administrative data can enable states to know which groups of people are attaining each type of credential, and where progress is needed.

Overall, states are the most likely to have data about certificates from public for-credit programs, registered apprenticeship certificates, and licenses. States are the least likely to collect data on non-registered apprenticeship certificates and industry certifications.

States also reported which non-degree credentials data they incorporate into their longitudinal data systems. Longitudinal data systems match information from different programs and agencies across time, which can enable states to understand the education and employment outcomes of these credentials. States are the most likely to incorporate data about for-credit certificates into their longitudinal data systems, and the least likely to incorporate data about non-credit certificates into their longitudinal data systems.

The majority of states are able to break down data about non-degree credential attainment by certain key demographics. This can help states better understand the attainment rates of these groups. States are the most likely to disaggregate attainment results by gender, a student’s highest level of educational attainment, and veteran status.

Finally, the scan shows that states are considering the quality of credentials. Thirty states are developing a list of “credentials of value.” These lists can help states identify quality credentials in order to administer financial aid, workforce development, or other programs.

In addition to work already being done, states can take steps to collect better administrative data about non-degree credentials. The scan contains examples of states that are already collecting certain types of non-degree credentials data. For example, Missouri has created a process to gather data about certificates awarded after the completion of a non-credit program, Tennessee has gathered data about students who take industry certification exams, and Washington state has a law which requires for-profit institutions to submit data to the state.

WDQC encourages state officials to use this scan to gauge their state’s progress in collecting data on non-degree credentials and to learn how to collect this data from other states who have done so successfully. State staff interested in collecting more data about non-degree credentials in their states should also reach out to WDQC, as we may be able to provide technical assistance.