Why the Lumina Foundation Is Betting Big on New Kinds of Credentials

"A college degree isn't the only path to meaningful work. In fact, these days it seems like there are more kinds of credentials than ever, some with trademarked names like Nanodegrees and MicroMasters," EdSurge reports. "One leading force in reinventing the credential is the Lumina Foundation, one of the largest nonprofits focused on higher education. The group has an ambitious goal to increase the number of Americans with some kind of high-quality credential. But what counts as high-quality? And how can students and employers sort through all the new options?"

"To get at those issues, EdSurge recently sat down with Courtney Brown, the Lumina Foundation’s vice president for strategic impact. She laid out the group’s vision for the future of credentials, and (in the full audio version) she talked about what the cartoon The Jetsons says about the future of education and the workplace.

EdSurge: Lumina has been actively involved in supporting new kinds of credentials like microcredentials. What's the vision behind this?

Brown: The Lumina Foundation is the largest foundation in the U.S. that is focused specifically on post-secondary education—anything beyond high school. A number of years ago, we set a goal for the nation that by 2025, 60 percent of Americans will hold a high-quality certificate, degree, or other high-quality credential.

The reason we set this goal for the nation is that we believe we need better and more talent in the U.S. to have a better society, or compete economically, compete globally. Currently, as a nation, we're at about 42 percent [of adults] that have degrees. When we add certificates, we're roughly at about 47 percent. We're nowhere near where the nation needs to be with regards to talent.

We estimate about 65 percent of jobs in 2025 will require some form of post-secondary education. So everything we do is about supporting education so that Americans have what they need to be able to have a good job, and good lives in the future.


Yeah. It seems like the idea of lifelong learning can become expensive for people, even if some of the credentials are low-cost. Are you seeing employers more willing to pay for this? Who will help pay for this trend of continual education?

So I think there are a couple things. Obviously, employers are trying to cut costs, and they may not think that training is important, so that may be something that gets on the chopping block. But we actually ran a few ROI studies with a number of different large employers a couple of years ago, and found that those employers that offered training found that their employees retained longer, they had less sick time, they were much more productive. They actually saw a return on investment for the training, which was very positive for I believe all of the employers that we worked with.

I also think that training doesn't have to be some really formalized training where we all sit down and we go, 'We're training right now, for the next three hours, and then we're going to be done training.' I think we're all learning things on the job. However long you've been on a job, for a year, six years, or whatnot, it's constantly changing.

I also think that the market is opening up a lot more, and so these things are more accessible, so it doesn't necessarily have to be a high cost."

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Publication Date: 5/17/2018

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