Boom in education certificates, licenses, badges causes confusion

“Every year, of course, there are more and more certification programs,” he said. “I can’t accept certification at face value if it’s not a valid degree.”

In fact, there is a “maze” of nearly a million unique educational documents in the United States, according to the nonprofit Credential Engine, including not only degrees but also badges, certificates, licenses, training, and industry certifications. During the pandemic, more emerged when those who changed careers sought education and training.

The result is confusion among employers fighting for workers, and there is growing concern that nasty players may take advantage to sell fake credentials.

“People are struggling to see if these credentials mean what they mean,” said Julie Uranis, vice president of online and strategic initiatives at the Association for the Professional and Continuing Education of Universities.

According to the Georgetown University Center for Education and Workforce, better-paying jobs require at least some education or training after high school – about 80 percent of them.

Impatient providers, including universities and commercial companies that offer training and education, respond with a dizzying number of accreditation programs.

“The student market is incredibly tight, and [colleges] “Let’s throw away everything we can and call it a badge or a certificate,” said Sean O’Reilly, vice president of vocational education and special programs at Pace University.

The method of developing and awarding new types of powers is “a bit like the Wild West,” according to a study by the Rutgers University’s Center for Educational and Employment Studies. (The study was supported by the Lumina Foundation, a sponsor of The Hechinger Report.)

“There is no single set of standards, mechanism, or system to help employees, employers, policymakers, and educational institutions determine or measure quality,” the Rutgers researchers concluded.

That doesn’t mean all education is invalid, Uranis said. But amid the chaos this can be hard to say.

“I could have a qualification in cybersecurity, but if I got it from an organization that used to focus on food processing, you’ll have to worry about whether they’re qualified to teach the subject,” she said.

Students and employers “need to be critical consumers,” Uranis said. But given the flow of education and training programs and the struggle for workers, “if an employer proves what kind of authority it is, it takes time, and not every hiring manager will have that time.”

This is especially true now, said John Duni, an adviser to the Society for Human Resource Management, the Human Resources Association.

Even before the pandemic and the subsequent reduction in manpower, 39 percent of executives said they spent less than a minute reading a resume, according to a CareerBuilder poll.

Consumers are also likely looking for shortcuts, said Alain Ezel, a retired FBI agent who has spent much of his career investigating education fraud and often multinational scammers who sell credentials from fictitious universities.

“The more we put pressure on people to have academic credentials, and the more important they are to open doors, get promotions or promotions, the more bad guys will care about the side of the demand curve,” Ezel said.

Even if they are looking for genuine educational programs, prospective students should be guided by the complexity of higher education and its poorly understood accreditation system.

Vendors “use the vagaries of accreditation to say,‘ Hey, we’re accredited by some fictional thing, ’and that’s enough to fool people,” O’Reilly said. “This allows bad actors to exploit this misunderstanding in the students entering the program, almost certain that it will not be accepted by employers or universities for transfer credit.

Ordinary higher education institutions are increasingly worried about the holes that have arisen in a system that used to be much simpler.

This year, the American Association of Registrars and Admissions has released a 264-page guide to fake institutions and documents to help its members lead what it calls a “difficult fight against this type of fraud.”

“This book probably wasn’t needed 10 years ago,” Duni said.

According to federal data, a quarter of adult Americans do not have a degree, which means something less than a bachelor’s degree, according to federal data, and in recent years they have become more popular. Among other things, advocates say, they promote justice by giving consumers the opportunity to get a job without spending years in college, getting unnecessary degrees.

“If there is a way to get a truly qualified employee in less time and with less effort, [companies] really interested in it, ”O’Reilly said. “But they are struggling with the same question, namely, ‘What is the real currency of an ID card?’ ”

The answers, he said, are “across the map.”

But some bullying from universities and colleges over the boom in educational powers may actually mask concerns about the new competition, said Amrit Ahluvaliya, director of strategic ideas at Modern Campus, which creates web pages for universities where students can find their own. previous. powers and offer more.

“As online education normalizes, and credentials from Google or Microsoft can get the job done, we suddenly find ourselves in an environment where higher education doesn’t have a monopoly on education,” Ahluvalia said.

The universities themselves were among the employers taken on forged documents. In August, the head of a theater company run by the University of Utah resigned when it became known that he claimed to have a master’s degree that he did not receive.

In this chaos, attempts are being made to restore order.

Credential Engine creates a registry of credentials with the formidable goal of eventually listing them all along with the training format, whether they are accredited, how long they take and what vacancies they can lead to.

“There are powers that are offered legally that don’t help anyone move,” said Scott Cheney, CEO of Credential Engine. “They leave people in debt, they don’t lead to work, they are not respected by employers. If you live in any major city, you will see advertisements for these programs on the bus. I want to make sure that people can get information on whether what is in this ad has value or is deadlocked. ”

A small branch of credential appraisers has emerged to assess the quality of credentials for hiring managers and universities. Other companies, such as Credly, test digital credentials and the skills they represent in a way that can be easily tested online. The number of organizations using it has nearly doubled in the past year, Cradley said.

“It’s a sad situation, but we pretty much look at every document with your guilt until innocence is proven,” said Jasmine Saidi-Kuhnert, president and CEO of the Institute for the Evaluation of Academic Empowerment and president of the board of directors. Association of International Credential Appraisers.

The Credential Engine Registry still includes complete or partial information on about 30,000 educational documents. That’s about 3 percent of the total he eventually hopes to list.

Until then, “we will continue to be in this place where we wonder,” are the credentials legitimate, said Uranis, whose organization has just set up an Alternative Credential Network to help set quality standards for these programs.

“Will we ever have a Kelley blue book or consumer reports for credentials? I don’t know that we will ever have something so comprehensive and specific. It could be a cluster of sources of information, ”she said. “But it would be much better than what we have now.”

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