A report from Lumina Foundation and its Quality Credentials Task Force calls for a coordinated national effort to ensure equitable access to quality postsecondary education in the United States.
The report, Unlocking the Nation's Potential: A Model to Advance Quality and Equity in Education Beyond High School (32 pages, PDF), found that the current U.S. system of degrees, certificates, industry certifications, and other credentials lacks a comprehensive definition of quality as well as the kind of up-to-date indicators needed to drive improvements in policies and practices. To help guide efforts that ensure access to high-quality educational opportunities for students of color and advance racially and economically just outcomes, the task force — which includes nearly two dozen education, policy, and workforce development leaders — proposes a model based on a shared understanding of what a quality credential is, as well as institution-based curricular changes and systemic reforms at the federal and state levels.
According to the report, savvy, well-supported students are far more likely to pursue and earn a high-quality credential that prepares them for twenty-first-century careers than disadvantaged, underserved students, who continue to struggle with historically low levels of available financial aid and who, even when they do pursue a credential, often only have access to lower-quality programs with limited potential to deliver long-term economic mobility. The proposed framework calls on stakeholders to commit to pursuing quality and equity not as discrete goals but as a dual, linked objective; coordinate curricular reforms designed by academic leaders with regulatory reforms developed by federal and state policy makers, accreditors, and associations; and enlist and support the active cooperation of leaders from diverse sectors.
"As today's post-high school landscape has evolved alongside technological innovation, challenges to democratic institutions, and increasingly globalized work and learning communities, our systems for quality assurance have continued to rely on outdated assumptions, leaving some student groups vulnerable to wasting time and money on ineffective educational pathways," said Debra Humphreys, Lumina's vice president of strategic engagement and the task force's co-chair. "We need a system that defines quality based on evidence that credentials prepare students with relevant skills for the job market and give them the knowledge, skills, and abilities to pursue additional learning and lead fulfilling lives as workers, citizens, and community members."
(Photo credit: Lumina Foundation)