Analysis: Over 30M Adults With College Education But No Degree: Certificate Programs to the Rescue

Mikel Amigot | New York 

Over 30 million adults in the U.S. have a college education but no degree. This is mostly as a result of the fact that one-third of all first-time, full-time college students fail to graduate from four-year programs.

Sooner rather than later, these individuals will need to fill that gap by upgrading their skills and obtaining certificates. Professional education will help them advance their careers, within and outside their existing companies.

Graduate extension programs and executive education in postsecondary education should be in high demand.

Now, large employers are tapping into that demand, as well.

For example, corporations such as Starbucks, Walmart, Chipotle, JetBlue and Uber offer their employees compelling ways to earn full degrees or certificates; some of them, for free or at a steep discount.

Certificate programs might also be a solution to address the college dropout rate and flip the script. Earning a job-ready certificate within the first semester or year of college, provides students with a promising path to market.

Such credentials have grown significantly in recent years, although a number of them have limited value in the labor market.

Last year, Credential Engine reported that nearly 67,000 programs in the United States grant credentials.

With a certificate-first approach, top corporations should create credential-programs in their areas of expertise in order to educate external audiences at scale.

Employee education is one of the next big frontiers.