Non-degree Credentials Research Network (NCRN)

The Non-Degree Credentials Research Network (NCRN) is a project funded through a grant from Lumina Foundation and managed by researchers at the George Washington Institute of Public Policy (GWIPP). The NCRN is a small and by-invitation only group of leading researchers and key stakeholders (employers, policy makers and providers of employment, training and certification). The purpose is to clarify what is currently known about such credentials (certificates, certifications, apprenticeships, licenses, micro-credentials, etc.) and their place in the broader credentialing ecosystem; determine what new research is needed; identify lessons learned in the course of the project and their implications for policy and practice; and share the project’s findings with practitioners, policymakers and other stakeholders. If you are interested in joining NCRN please contact Kyle Albert at GWIPP.

Requests for Proposals
The NCRN announces two funding opportunities for the non-degree credentialing research community: microgrants and research contracts. In our request for proposals (RFP), we describe these opportunities in detail, including sample proposal topics, application procedures, and evaluation criteria. Preliminary applications can be submitted via separate web forms for the research contracts and microgrants. Applications must be submitted by September 27, 2021. Previous NCRN membership is not required to apply for a microgrant or contract. Please contact Kyle Albert with any questions about the RFP process.
Reports of the Non-Degree Credentials Research Network
Upcoming Events
Please join our listserv (instructions) or email Kyle Albert for webinar login information.

Credentials: Problems, Opportunities, Solutions (October 14, 2021, 1 PM EST)

NCRN members Paul Gaston and Michelle Van Noy will present takeaways from their new book and practical suggestions especially for postsecondary education administrators, faculty members, and academic advisors.  Michelle is Associate Director, Education and Employment Research Center, School of Management and Labor Relations, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; and Paul L. Gaston is Trustees Professor Emeritus, Kent State University and Distinguished Fellow, AAC&U.

Recent Events
Research Initiatives in Ontario, Canada (September 9, 2021, 1- 2 PM EST)

Jackie Pichette, Director of Policy, Research and Partnerships at the Higher Education Quality Council, Ontario presented research on microcredentialing developments in Ontario. 

Skills-Based Employer Practices (August 18, 2021, 1 PM EST)

Implementation of skills-based practices into the human capital life cycle has emerged as a more agile means of supporting organizational workforce needs and goals, while increasing career opportunities for a broader range of people (e.g., those without college degrees) and improving organizational diversity.  One critical aspect in the implementation of skills-based practices is to be able to measure and track the skills that employees learn on the job. American Institutes for Research (AIR) researchers will present the results of research, funded through a grant from Walmart, which looked at the landscape of employer skill validation practices and the systems and tools that support them through case study interviews with 10 employers and 5 tool providers.

Speakers include Christina Curnow, Managing Director, American Institutes for Research, and Rob Calderón, Principal I/O Researcher, American Institutes for Research

Full Membership NCRN Webinar: (July 15th, 2021, 1 PM EST)
Presentation from Kyle Albert on the NCRN’s RFP and other upcoming NCRN initiatives, including an update on where we are with respect to planning in-person meetings. Introduction of GWU/NCRN partnership with Workforce Monitor and its publisher, George Lorenzo. Updates on in-progress research and any other updates that would be of interest to NCRN members. All participants were invited to speak and share their work.
Workforce Data Infrastructure (June 3, 2021, 1 PM EST)

This NCRN webinar was held on June 3 at 1 pm ET. U.S. Chamber Foundation VP Jason A. Tyszko presented on his center's efforts to modernize workforce data and enabling infrastructures, giving special attention to the T3 Network of Networks, Jobs and Employments Data Exchange (JEDx), and an initiative around Learning and Employment Records (LERs). Contact [email protected] for more information.


Microcredentials featuring Gillian Golden and Thomas Weko (April 22, 2021, 1 PM EST)

This NCRN webinar, "Microcredentials: The Race Between Innovation and Public Regulation," featured Gillian Golden and Thomas Weko of the OECD. Gillian Golden is a policy analyst in the Higher Education Policy Team of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. She currently is the project lead for initiatives related to new data and evidence development. Thomas Weko is a Senior Analyst in Education and Skills Directorate of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), where he leads the work of the Higher Education Policy Team. They described some of their research on the adoption of non-degree credentials and divergences among OECD member countries in public policy towards NDCs. 


IPEDS, featuring Mark Schneider, Ross Santy, and Tara Lawley (March 4, 2021)

The NCRN hosted a discussion of the future of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Institute of Education Sciences Director Mark Schneider updated the network about other IES initiatives and answered questions.


Overview of WorkRise with Todd Greene (February 18, 2021)

Todd Greene joined us to present the Urban Institute's recently-launched WorkRise initiative, which supports researchers studying the state of the pandemic-era job market and labor market inequality. 


Badges (November 24, 2020)

We hosted Louis Soares, chief learning and evaluation officer of the American Council on Education, and Jonathan Finkelstein, founder and CEO of Credly. 


Competencies in Higher Education (October 21, 2020)

Lauren Eyster and her Urban Institute colleague Molly Scott presented a webinar on their recent publication: Better Connecting Students to Jobs: A Guide for Policymakers to Encourage and Support Integrating Competencies in Postsecondary Education and Training. Charla Long, the executive director of the Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN), was the discussant.


The Interstate Passport (August 25, 2020)

On Tuesday, August 25th we hosted a webinar discussing the Interstate Passport and its potential for use as a non-degree credential. The Interstate Passport is a program designed to enable nationwide block transfer of lower-division general education based on learning outcomes for institutions participating in the Interstate Passport Network. Presenters included Heather McKay, director of the Education and Employment Research Center at Rutgers University, Anna Galas, director of academic leadership initiatives for the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), and Lisa Ferris-McCann, director of academic integrity and quality for the American Council on Education. 


Presentation by Nan Travers (August 5, 2020)

On Wednesday, August 5th, the NCRN hosted Nan Travers of SUNY Empire State College to discuss her "Credential as You Go" project examining the incremental recognition of learning that supplements existing post-secondary degrees and certificates. After Nan's presentation, two discussants presented their views on incremental credentialing and situated Credential as You Go in the broader credentialing landscape: Kent Phillippe, Associate Vice President for Research and Student Success at the American Association of Community Colleges and Cindy Cisneros, Vice President of Education Programs at the Conference Board's Committee for Economic Development.


The Manufacturing Institute, National Student Clearinghouse, and Census Bureau's Efforts to Link Administrative Data on Certification (July 22, 2020)

On Wednesday, July 22nd, the NCRN hosted the Manufacturing Institute's VP for Strategic Initiatives, Gardner Carrick, who presented the findings of a unique research project on the earnings and trajectory of earnings before and after an individual received a manufacturing industry certification as well as how the attainment of an educational credential (certificate, Associate, Bachelor) impacted those earnings. This research was completed in collaboration with the National Student Clearinghouse (represented in this webinar by Vanessa Brown) and the Census Bureau.


The Impact of Pandemic-Induced Unemployment on Training and Credentials (July 1, 2020)

The NCRN hosted a virtual event open to all interested researchers and stakeholders on the pandemic's impact on the labor market and its implications for the organizations that provide training and credentials. Speakers included Stuart Andreason of the Atlanta Fed’s Center for Workforce and Economic Opportunity, and Iris Palmer, Senior Advisor for Higher Education and Workforce at New America. Stuart presented the latest data on employment trends, and Iris discussed the effectiveness of past government programs to promote the reskilling of displaced workers. This webinar also featured two respondents from the stakeholder community: Steven Partridge, vice president for workforce development at Northern Virginia Community College, and Kenyatta Lovett, assistant commissioner of labor in Tennessee.


Virtual Plenary on the Implications of COVID-19 for Non-Degree Credentials and Credentialing Research (June 17, 2020)

At a members-only virtual meeting led by Iris Palmer, Paul Osterman, Holly Zanville and Stuart Andreason, NCRN researchers described the challenges involved in conducting research during the COVID-19 pandemic. Members also discussed the potential policy implications of the pandemic and resulting job losses for job training and non-degree credentials. Paul Osterman's PowerPoint slides describing preliminary results of a survey on adult job training.


The National Training, Education, and Workforce Survey (June 2, 2020)

We hosted John Finamore, director of the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics at the National Science Foundation, for an informative discussion of the future of federal data collection on non-degree credentials. John presented the latest updates concerning the National Training, Education and Workforce Survey, a major effort to collect data on the educational attainment (including via non-degree credentials) of the U.S. adult population with a focus on those in the skilled technical workforce. The NTEWS is a very significant opportunity for the non-degree credentials research community to better understand who earns non-degree credentials and how credentials relate to labor market outcomes. While the NTEWS 60-day comment period closed on June 15, 2020, another comment period is anticipated prior to the administration of the survey in 2021.


Community Colleges and Non-Degree Credentials: Drivers for Change and Early Lessons Learned (May 19, 2020)

In this webinar, Sean Gallagher, co-editor of a recently published community college-focused, practitioner-oriented journal volume, “Credentials for a New Era of Work and Learning,” shared insights relevant to non-degree credentials research. Sean analyzed the factors driving community colleges' interest in non-degree credentials, discussed opportunities associated with non-degree credentials, and identified emerging trends and best practices that community colleges might consider when structuring their credentials.


The NCRN Project aims to: 
  • Create a knowledge-sharing and collaboration-facilitating network of researchers with expertise on the distribution, production, consumption, use and value of non-degree workforce credentials
  • Assess the current state of our knowledge about such credentials, map existing research, and identify needs and opportunities for new research; and
  • Produce an annual synthesis of what is learned, including recommendations for educational and workforce development practice and policy; and
  • Communicate effectively the lessons learned to practitioners and policymakers as well as the broader research community.  
Who are we? 
We are a network of researchers working on various types of non-degree credentialing including licenses, certifications, apprenticeships, certificates, and micro-credentials. The NCRN includes experts from higher education institutions, research firms, and nonprofit organizations, among others. 
Steve Crawford, Research Professor, GWIPP. Dr. Crawford serves as the project’s principal investigator. Dr. Crawford can be contacted via email at [email protected]
Holly Zanville, Research Professor, GWIPP. Dr. Zanville manages communication and research strategies. Zanville can be contacted via email at [email protected].
Kyle Albert, Assistant Research Professor, GWIPP. Dr. Albert manages the project’s day-to-day activities. Dr. Albert can be contacted via email at [email protected]
Advisory Council. The advisory council assists project staff in identifying relevant data, research and scholars; reviewing and commenting on the project's reports; and planning effective dissemination of the lessons learned. Its members are:
  • Dr. Mary Alice McCarthy (director, New America's Center on Education and Skills - New America), 
  • Dr. Heather McKay (director, Education and Employment Research Center, Rutger's School of Management and Labor Relations)
  • Dr. Andrew Reamer (research professor, GWU/GWIPP)
  • Dr. Bob Sheets (research professor, GWU/GWIPP)
  • Dr. Roy Swift (executive director, Workcred)
  • Dr. Jeff Strohl (research director, Georgetown's Center on Education and the Workforce) 
  • Dr. Michelle Van Noy (associate director, Education and Employment Research Center, Rutger's School of Management and Labor Relations)
  • Dr. Sean Gallagher (director, Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy, Northeastern University)
  • Dr. Larry Good (chair and senior fellow, Corporation for a Skilled Workforce).



Do you represent a stakeholder organization or simply want to stay up-to-date on the NCRN’s work? Join the NCRN’s stakeholder email list by sending “SUB NCRN-PUBLIC” in the body of an email message (with no subject line or other text) to [email protected].


Meeting and Webinar Presentations and Photos

Materials from 1/27/20 Research Meeting

The following materials were presented at the January 27, 2020, NCRN meeting and are shared here with the presenters’ permission.

Materials from 8/12/19 Research Meeting

The following materials were presented at the August 12, 2019, NCRN meeting and are shared here with the presenters’ permission.

Webinar on Non-Degree Credential Quality
NCRN's Literature Scan and Zotero Library
Recent Related Research Publications


Opportunities to Comment on Federal Data Collections

Andrew Reamer presented to the NCRN on the many upcoming opportunities for researchers to shape federal data collection policy concerning non-degree credentials. In the spreadsheet linked below, he lists all known active federal survey data collection efforts concerning non-degree credentials with details on when researchers can submit comments to relevant agencies.