Study on Third-Party Credentials

Study on Third-Party Credentials, Community College Course-Taking, and Earnings Outcomes
Working closely with the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office, Laurium Evaluation Group, and researcher Peter Riley Bahr, WestEd is conducting a study that examines the relationship between attending community college, securing a third-party credential, and earnings gains.
While graduating from community college and transferring to a four-year institution are important success metrics, they do not capture all community college outcomes, particularly in career and technical education (CTE). There is growing evidence that CTE students reap benefits in terms of job retention and earnings gains even without earning a community college credential.
One factor that may explain the earnings gains of “skills-builder” students is that they use their community college education to acquire third-party credentials. For example, students may take short sequences of courses to become state-licensed childcare workers or wastewater treatment plant operators. They may leverage knowledge gained from a college course to pass a certification exam offered by Microsoft or the National Association of Manufacturers. Or, they may pair coursework with job experience to qualify for apprenticeships in steel-working or carpentry.
Understanding the relationships between credit and noncredit course-taking, third-party credentials, and earnings gains is important for both policy making and institutional program improvement.
This project is funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Innovation in Career Technical Education in the Office of Career Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE) and dovetails with a similar analysis looking at Comp-TIA certifications in multiple states, as well as the Workforce Credentials Coalition's partnership with the National Student Clearinghouse to analyze National Institute for Metalworking Skills certifications.