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Feature Article

The Hidden College:
Noncredit Education in the United States

Participation in learning is setting new records, and recent trends suggest
that even greater participation is to come. Unfortunately, a very large
slice of the learning marketplace operates beyond the view of public policy;
noncredit programs operating under the aegis of traditional higher education
institutions. These programs purportedly serve millions of learners each
year, but no one knows their full scope. No national data have existed that
trace the types of noncredit programs that attract learners or their
enrollments. Much is missing in this dialog, so much so that we label this
phenomenon the "Hidden College". read article
<http://highered.org/docs/hiddencollege.pdf> >

 

Source: http://highered.org/

 

The Hidden College:
Noncredit Education in the United States

35-page pdf: http://highered.org/docs/hiddencollege.pdf

 

Table of Contents

Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

The Coin of the Realm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

Defining Noncredit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

Noncredit's "Credit Hour" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

True Differences? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

Noncredit's Competition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

Who Takes Noncredit Classes? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

Noncredit Remedial Classes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

Who Offers Noncredit Programs? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

What is Offered? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

States . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

Institutions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16

Business and Industry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16

Learners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16

Setting An Agenda . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16

Is Separate Good? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16

External Barriers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18

Moving Toward Quality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19

Growth in Remedial Noncredit Programs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

A Better Picture of Noncredit Activity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

What is gained? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

What might be lost? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

Institutional Barriers to Better Information. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22

A Role for State Government . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24

A Role for the Federal Government . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24

Technology and Noncredit Education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25

Putting It All Together . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26

References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28

Appendix A

Technical Notes for the HigherEd.Org National Survey

of Noncredit Education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29

 

Blurb from Introduction:

1

Introduction

Participation in learning is setting new participation records and recent
trends suggest

that even greater participation is to come. These activities range from
formal, instructor-led classes to informal, work-related learning. Learners
seek to acquire knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in the workforce,
to earn a college or advanced degree, to learn basic skills or English
language skills, or simply to enrich their lives. Fueled by an expanding
adult population, increased competition for jobs in the global marketplace,
and strong connections between education and income, the need to learn
throughout one's life has never been more imperative.

 

These are exciting times to be a learner. Existing and emerging
institutions,

organizations, and companies compete for learners with a wide range of
classes, programs, and activities across a seemingly endless menu of
learning options. Nearly half of all American adults take advantage of these
opportunities in formal learning pathways while still another large segment
pursues learning that is less structured. Whether learning is directed
formally by an instructor in a classroom or directed informally by learners
themselves, it is undeniable that the national appetite for learning is
large and drives an expanding market place.

 

Good public policy encourages expanded learning. The connections between an

educated citizenry and economic vitality and quality of life are
inescapable. The global

economy continues to ignore workers with minimal skills. Continuous learning
and training is critical for all employees and their employers. Not only
must states and the federal government articulate a vision that supports
this stance, they also must close the demonstrated gaps in learning that
hinder that vision. This requires a clear understanding of the types of
learners now engaged in acquiring skills as well as those who are not yet
participating. It also requires an assessment of learning providers and how
they might contribute to a learning agenda. Better information always
requires commitment. 

 

Unfortunately, a very large slice of the learning marketplace operates
beyond the view of public policy. Here, we refer to noncredit programs
operating under the aegis of traditional higher education institutions.
These programs purportedly serve million of learners each year, but no one
knows their full scope. No national data exists that traces the types of
programs that attract learners nor what that volume may be. Consequently,
there is no appreciation of how noncredit learning might fit a public
agenda. Instead, when higher education is invited to the policy table, the
focus is limited to credit programs and degrees. Much is missing in this
dialog, so much so that we label this phenomenon the "Hidden College."

 

The Hidden College masks higher education's contribution to the learning
market. We

know that there are about 17 million students enrolled in credit programs in
American higher education, a figure representing just 18 percent of the
estimated pool of 97 million adult learners. Overall enrollments are
expected to grow sharply during the next 10 years. But, the share of adult
learners is expected to grow only slightly.

 

THE HIDDEN COLLEGE:

NONCREDIT EDUCATION IN THE UNITED STATES

Richard A. Voorhees

John H. Milam

May 31, 2005


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