Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning recently published its 50th anniversary issue, featuring invited essays offering insights on a wide range of higher education’s most pressing issues. Drawing on his prior research on the subject for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education, Ithaka S+R’s Martin Kurzweil contributed a piece discussing “Alternative Postsecondary Pathways: What We Know, What We Don’t Know, and Why It Matters.”

As Change Editor David Paris describes the essay in his introduction:

Kurzweil’s essay explores the rapidly expanding phenomenon of alternative credentials and pathways, which he sees as “all but essential in the twenty-first-century economy.” There is currently a “credential shortfall” in which traditional credentials are insufficient to signal employers and students of what employers need and what students can do. The students from disadvantaged groups are the ones most in need of these new credentials and “the ones least likely to complete traditional degree programs.” The current situation is “both inadequate and inequitable.” He describes the expansion of alternative credential programs, including certificates, work-based trading, coding boot camps, MOOCs, and competency-based education. The evidence is not in on their effectiveness, and we need to be cautious about quality assurance and “bad actors.” Nevertheless, Kurzweil is basically optimistic that these programs will coevolve with more traditional degree programs to the benefit of both. He offers several recommendations for studying and improving these programs.

Interested in continuing the conversation on alternative postsecondary pathways? Contact us or connect with Martin on Twitter (@martinkurzweil).