Tag Archives: professional certificate programs

Postsecondary Education Landscape by Dean Cathy Sandeen

There’s a shift in the higher education landscape. Or maybe it’s an expansion.  If we look at the entire landscape of postsecondary education—and not only traditional degrees—the picture is big, dynamic, and evolving.

But most importantly, I believe, the system is inclusive. The new postsecondary landscape offers multiple entry points, many formats, recognition for different forms of learning, and the ability to compound learning over time.  My first try with the following chart attempts to capture this environment.

The purple colored boxes represent what we have traditionally thought of as postsecondary education. These are various levels of college and university degrees, followed by some form of continuing education after degree attainment. (Any of these might be full-time or part-time, classroom-based or online.)

As you can see, this chart has a lot more than just the purple boxes.

At the top, in a red tone, are professional certificate programs. (I’ve also heard certificates referred to as “stand alone minors,” that is equivalent to a minor in a traditional degree.) These might be completed at any time during the postsecondary cycle of one’s life. One might start with a stand-alone certificate and work for a while. Then he or she might earn another related certificate and/or begin a degree program. Or, completion of a certificate might go in the reverse with an individual earning a degree (or two) first, then completing one or more certificates. Ideally, certificates are “stackable,” meaning they build competencies in a logical sequence and relate to one another. Most will be career related. Many also articulate into degrees—credit for certificates may be applied toward a degree.

Licensure and/or credentialing (light aqua blue box) fits here as well. These are usually provided by state agencies or outside professional associations and are sometimes mandatory to work in a field (e.g. law, medicine, real estate, etc.)

The blue toned boxes at the bottom represent prior learning assessment. Prior learning assessment—assigning academic credit for learning that occurs outside the classroom—has been around for a long time, but it is just recently coming into the spotlight. See recent Inside Higher Ed article here. Prior learning assessment is an increasingly important entry point into the postsecondary landscape for many individuals. For example, think about a member of the military who receives some credit for high level technical training completed as part of his or her service and then using this credit to jump-start completion of a degree program.

At the far right, what I’ve labeled “Lifelong Learning” represents learning for enjoyment and enrichment without a specific career goal in mind. The growing number of learning in retirement programs is one example of this category of postsecondary education, though it occurs at any time during the postsecondary life cycle. Lifelong learning may occur at a university, or at a museum, through an open online course, or any number of avenues.

The various arrows show possible connections and articulations among different components of the system. I acknowledge it is fairly simple to draw in the arrows. Forming real connections and pathways among real institutions and types of education will be more of a challenge.

When we talk about increasing postsecondary education completion in the US, this dynamic system is enormously promising.  Multiple pathways and entry points. Making every academic achievement count. Allowing growth and change over time.

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Face Reality and Take Charge of Your Next Step by Dean Cathy Sandeen

I participated in two interesting discussions last week that underscored something I have been thinking about lately.

First, at the UCLA Extension Dean’s Advisory Board meeting, we heard a presentation by Board member Ed Leamer a faculty member at the UCLA Anderson School of Management and director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast.

Professor Leamer  explained that in previous economic downturns, unemployment increased as industries reduced their workforce. But once conditions improved, displaced workers eventually were rehired into their previous industries.

The current economic downturn is quite a bit different.  Large numbers of jobs in construction and manufacturing have disappeared and they will not be coming back. Other industries have completely changed as well. Think about print journalism, printing in general, advertising, and the music industry.

My second meeting last week was part of UCLA Day with Local Government,” an advocacy day spent meeting with various elected officials and staff at Los Angeles City Hall. I met with a group of executive directors and board members from the local unemployment services/workforce system.

One senior human resources director from a large local firm mentioned he has encountered a number of people in his professional and personal life who have lost jobs and who have not faced the reality that those exact jobs will not reemerge. Almost every industry now requires higher level skills and a greater use of technology. Many unemployed individuals are sitting back and waiting for the world to adapt to them. They are not doing anything to adapt themselves for reemployment in today’s environment.

It is extremely difficult and unsettling for many people to think about going back to school when one has been out of school for 30 years or more.  This dynamic is even more apparent for those who entered the workforce directly from high school.

This brings me back to the title of this post. Facing reality and next steps.

There are many options for someone to build upon past experience and to upgrade knowledge and skills quickly. For many, I would recommend a serious look at rigorous professional certificate programs. We have seen individuals transition

  • from banking to logistics
  • from mortgage broker to starting a waste recycling company
  • from information technology professionals to the healthcare field
  • from sales and marketing people to nonprofit organizations

The key is to get help and advice

  • What transferrable skills do you have?
  • What industries project employment growth?
  • What do you care about?

Then, find a program that can help you connect all the dots and get you from A to B. You can find employment that equals or exceeds your previous position.

Naturally, UCLA Extension offers many options. The most important thing is to face reality and take that important next step.

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Education Still Pays by Cathy Sandeen

Every few years the College Board (yes, the organization that administers the SAT and other standardized exams) issues a major report on the economic benefits of higher education—particularly attainment of a bachelors degree. Their latest report, “Education Pays 2010” was released on September 20th.

There were no major surprises in this year’s report. With all the justified focus on the rising cost of higher education in the US, it is nice to realize a college education is still a good investment for people. The report concluded:

  • Individuals with higher levels of education earn more and are more likely than others to be employed.
  • Median earnings of bachelor’s degree recipients working full time year-round in 2008 were $55,700, $21,900 more than median earnings of high school graduates.
  • Individuals with some college but no degree earned 17% more than high school graduates working full-time year-round. Their median after-tax earnings were 16% higher.
  • For young adults between the ages of 20 and 24, the unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of 2009 for high school graduates was 2.6 times as high as that for college graduates.

There are indirect economic and individual benefits as well for college graduates:

  • College-educated adults are more likely than others to receive health insurance and pension benefits from their employers and be satisfied with their jobs.

In addition to these direct economic benefits to individuals, the report identified a number of broader societal economic benefits as well. Higher education is a good investment for the country, according to the College Board:

  • College education leads to healthier lifestyles, reducing health care costs for individuals and for society.
  • Adults with higher levels of education are more active citizens than others.
  • Federal, state, and local governments enjoy increased tax revenues from college graduates and spend less on income support programs for them, providing a direct financial return from investments in postsecondary education.

Although the percentage of college attainment in the US is relatively low—too low, in my opinion, to support the more sophisticated, abstract, higher-level jobs of the future—the proportion of US college graduates is trending in the right direction.

  • The proportion of adults in the United States between the ages of 25 and 34 with a four-year college degree held steady at 24% in the 1980s, but grew from 29% in 2000 to 32% in 2009.

Economic benefits of higher education are not limited to attainment of an initial 4-year bachelor degree. In a previous blog post, I wrote about the economic impact of UCLA Extension that included increased earning power of students who completed professional and continuing education programs at our institution.

Should higher education reach and serve more people? Of course. Can higher education institutions be more efficient while maintaining quality outcomes? Yes, we can. But is higher education still worth it to you and your family? Most definitely.

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Economic Value of Professional Certificates by Dean Cathy Sandeen

 

I was recently quoted in a story the March 2010 Los Angeles Times education supplement (page 6).   Titled, Small Programs Make Big Paydays, the author clearly got what I have been saying about the value of rigorous and recognized professional certificates. The author cites a study by the Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce (GCEW)  that determined certificates are the fastest growing segment of post secondary education and serve as a “significant component of human capital development in many areas of training.”

Our own study of the value of a professional certificate reinforces GCEW’s conclusions. One of my posts from last December, UCLA Extension Provides Real Economic Benefits, addresses this very issue.

UCLA Extension contributes $250 million per year to the Los Angeles county economy, 70% of that in the form of increased earning power by students who complete a program with us. As the Times supplement indicated, that translates into an average individual annual salary increase of over $17,000.

Certificates are linked directly to jobs and are appropriate for individuals who have already completed more traditional degree programs or often for individuals who have not yet completed degrees. UCLA Extension certificate programs span a broad range of subject areas including accounting, entertainment studies, landscape architecture, digital communication arts, sustainability and many others.

 Certificates provide a big impact in a shorter time frame and for less of a financial investment. Many have been approved for funding through the workforce system for eligible displaced or unemployed individuals.

Certificate completion is flexible; complete a program quickly or more slowly depending on your other commitments. Begin almost immediately. You have the opportunity to begin a certificate class or program four times per year with no lengthy application process or waiting period.

 Now is the time for certificate programs to shine. Fortunately, real value for individuals and the workforce is clearly recognized.

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