The Value of Community College Short-Term  Credentials

New ACCT Paper Recommends Policy Changes to Reflect True Student Needs

The Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) today announced the publication of a new report that assesses short-term community college credential program outcomes in three states, with support from the ECMC Foundation. In addition to finding that many employer-aligned short-term programs can lead to increased wages and a higher quality of life for students who complete them, The Value of Community College Short-Term Credentials reviews existing published literature and offers recommendations to help modernize the nation’s federal postsecondary policies to reflect the true needs of today’s students.

“A major limitation of assessing the value of short-term credentials offered by community colleges is a lack of publicly available data on students’ academic success and employment outcomes,” said ACCT President and CEO J. Noah Brown. “Prior studies on these programs typically assess data of all short-term credentials across higher education, which limits the ability to identify specifically how community college students fare. This report aims to begin to fill this gap.”

“We are pleased to see ACCT’s evaluation culminate in this final report,” shared Peter Taylor, president ECMC Foundation. “It is our hope that these findings better inform a quality debate on the topic of Short-Term Pell, a decision that may have a significant impact on low-income learners, learners of color, and adult learners.”

For this study, ACCT collected data from three statewide community college systems: Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS), North Carolina Community Colleges (NCCC), and the Virginia Community College System (VCCS). In addition to quantitative data analysis, ACCT interviewed leaders from each college system to gain insights on program characteristics, implementation, and strategies to connect students to careers in their fields of study.

In addition to finding that many community college short-term credentialing programs lead to higher wages and an improved quality of life, the research combined with existing literature revealed several needs for which the authors offered recommendations, including:

  1. Expand Pell Grant eligibility to short-term education and training programs by:
    • Lowering the clock-hour threshold for Pell Grant eligibility;
    • Ensuring short-term programs lead to recognized postsecondary credentials; and
    • Ensuring short-term programs can articulate to longer-term educational pathways.
  • Support student success during and after program participation by:
    • Funding community college and business partnerships; and
    • Expanding basic needs services for students in short-term programs.
  • Improve data infrastructure to connect students’ academic and employment outcomes.

 Download the report

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ACCT Now is the go-to resource for issues affecting community colleges. In addition to reporting and research, you’ll have access to of-the-moment legislative updates. We’ve also included articles, reports, and research from outside sources that benefit the ACCT community.

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