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Friday, July 28, 2017

Study Takes a Closer Look at Alternative Ed

Educational programs providing students with ways to acquire practical job skills are often praised as a shorter and cheaper alternative to traditional college. However, new research has shown that it’s not quite that simple.

The report The Complex Universe of Alternative Postsecondary Credentials and Pathways, a study conducted by Ithaka S+R for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, found the earning power of the different programs varies widely and depends on the subject studied. For instance, a person who has a computer-science certificate can expect to earn twice as someone holding much as a health-care or cosmetology certificate.

The study also found that certificate programs, work-based training, and competency-based programs tend to attract older, lower-income students who have not completed a college degree. At the same time, 80% of IT bootcamp participants and 75% of those enrolled in massive open online courses already have a bachelor’s degree.

Researchers found little evidence to determine how effective the many programs are, along with wide variation in their quality. They recommend more data be collected and studied on educational and employment outcomes so better quality-assurance standards can be developed.

“We quickly learned that while there’s some piecemeal information, there really hasn’t been this kind of landscape review before,” said Martin Kurzweil, director of the educational transformation program at Ithaka S+R, the firm that conducted the study. “That’s surprising, because there’s millions of Americans engaged in this kind of postsecondary education.”

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