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Higher ed student success: Web registry gives greater clarity to credentials

University Business, January 2018
COURSE CATALOG—Nursing programs at the University of Saint Francis should get more notice now that the school has joined Credential Engine, which is developing a searchable database designed to contain all credentials offered in U.S. The service also will help students plot degree paths through higher ed.
COURSE CATALOG—Nursing programs at the University of Saint Francis should get more notice now that the school has joined Credential Engine, which is developing a searchable database designed to contain all credentials offered in U.S. The service also will help students plot degree paths through higher ed.

The development of career-oriented academic programs will, in the coming years, increasingly rely on collaboration between institutions and industry.

Rio Salado College, headquartered in Tempe, Arizona, has, for instance, worked with Kroger Foods to create credentials aimed at the continuing education needs of the multistate grocery chain’s current and future employees.

“It’s going to be more about looking at industry sectors and creating credentials, certificates and degree programs that are clear pathways to work,” says Rio Salado’s president, Chris Bustamante.

Participant profile: University of Saint Francis

Transferring two-year students—an important pool of potential enrollees for to the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, Indiana—could use Credential Engine to plot a pathway from an associate degree to a doctorate, says J. Andrew Prall, vice president for academic affairs.

“We’re hoping to demystify the credentialing process,” Prall says. “All constituencies can really gain far greater clarity about what can be a complicated system.”

While Credential Engine is not a marketing tool, it will help Saint Francis better reach students outside its region. “We have an outstanding reputation in northeastern Indiana,” Prall says. “This tool allows us to send information about our quality credentials to a broader audience.”

Key to this system will be a high degree of transparency to provide industry, students, lawmakers and the wider higher ed sector with a complete breakdown of the competencies and skills that go into a specific credential, certificate, diploma or degree at a particular school.

That openness is the mission of a startup nonprofit called Credential Engine, launched in 2016 to build a free, web-based registry of credentials that can be searched by students, educators and employers.

The registry went live on December 7, 2017, with about 1,500 credentials from Rio Salado and approximately 170 other colleges, universities and educational institutions, says Scott Cheney, Credential Engine’s executive director.

Offering updates wanted

The service aims to capture—and make publicly searchable—every one of the 250,000 credentials offered at every level in the U.S., from high school diplomas to Ph.D.s.

“Our vision is to make them accessible for comparison by any actor in the labor market,” Cheney says.

Employers, for instance, could search “nursing” to find institutions that teach specialized skills. Students will be able to search costs and outcomes for different nursing programs.

Other colleges participating so far include Purdue University and Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana, and Elon University in North Carolina.

Colleges can join by setting up an account and entering credentials that can be updated regularly.

“We want institutions to have full control over the information about their credentials,” Cheney says. “There is a big change coming to this field, and universities and colleges are going to be in a really good position to demonstrate the value of their offerings.”