Community Colleges and the New Era of Work and Learning

Working Paper 66
Publisher: Oakland, CA: Mathematica Policy Research
Jan 23, 2019
Sean Gallagher and Nan L. Maxwell

Changes in the credentialing market have produced a complex, multilayered ecosystem with a demand for shorter credentials that are focused around job market competencies. Community colleges are well positioned to lead this emerging market for three reasons. (1) Their dual mission to offer both traditional degrees and workforce development programs provides a competitive advantage in piloting and implementing many of the new types of credentials, especially those that can be embedded into traditional degree programs. (2) They have a long history in awarding certificates, one type of shorter work-aligned credential that is experiencing a new emphasis in today’s market. (3) They have an established infrastructure, content knowledge experts, and employer relationships that can support a broad array of shorter credentials with a solid level of quality assurance. To play a central, even leading role, in the new credentialing market, community colleges must build credentials that respond to four growing trends and imperatives: building competency and market-oriented programs, structuring credentials to facilitate lifelong learning, unbundling learning in traditional degrees, and recognizing the need for quality assurance. This working paper describes the new credentialing market and discusses the potential for community colleges to be key players in it.