Boosting College Completion with “Mid-point” Credentials

by OCCRL / Jun 9, 2012

Harvard economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz have found that children no longer have substantially more education than their parents which was highlighted in an April 26 Wall Street Journal article.  This is just the latest evidence for the need to increase college completion rates in the U.S.

There are many ways to approach this problem and OCCRL, with the support of the Lumina Foundation, is looking at one unique potential solution: “mid-point” credentials.

The Lumina Foundation (2010) reported that more than 22% of working adults in America (which translates to 37 million Americans) have attended college but not completed a degree. Bowen, Chingos, and McPherson‘s (2009) estimated that almost 45 percent of student departures from college occur after the sophomore year, with the rate of departure highest among students attending less selective institutions. In a currently unpublished data analysis conducted by the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL), analysis of the National Center for Education Statistic’s 2003-2009 Beginning Postsecondary Students data set demonstrated that more than 50% of students who entered college in 2003 had not obtained a certificate or degree in six years. Furthermore, more than 20% of students who had not obtained a degree had accumulated 46 college credits or more.

These numbers suggest that there may be a substantial number of Americans who already have enough credits for a higher education credential, but for a variety of reasons, left college empty-handed. Several models exist that address this issue that we broadly call “mid-point” credential models. These models provide students with the opportunity to earn lower level credentials even if they do not achieve their original goal. Generally, a student enters one of these programs with the goal of earning a baccalaureate degree, however, if they stop before they reach that point they may still be eligible for an associate’s degree or certificate if they have earned enough credits before leaving the program. While a few of these programs exist in the U.S. they are more prevalent internationally.

What do you think about this idea of “mid-point” credentials?

Were you already aware of them?