92% of Higher Education Leaders Say Microcredentials Support Institutional Competitiveness

July 20, 2021

New study from UPCEA and Modern Campus highlights the opportunity for colleges and universities to improve enrollments and student workforce readiness

TORONTO and WASHINGTON, D.C., July 20, 2021 — Higher education leaders across North America are citing the value of alternative and microcredentials to support competitiveness and enrollment growth, according to a survey conducted by the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) and The EvoLLLution, an online publication founded by higher education student engagement leader Modern Campus.

The report, “Shifting Paradigms: Understanding Institutional Perspectives on Microcredentialing,” showcases the perspectives of a wide range of college and university leaders on the opportunities and challenges associated with scaling and launching alternative credentialing initiatives.


The Power of Microcredentials

Continuing, professional and workforce education have always used microcredentials and other alternative credentials to recognize student learning and ability. These credentials—which can sometimes count for credit but take less time to complete than a degree—allow students to upskill or reskill quickly.

As a result, these offerings help higher education institutions stay relevant both to employers and students. From the labor market perspective, earning alternative credentials helps students qualify for high paying middle-skill jobs at the entry level, and can also help them upskill to earn promotions and advance in their careers. And adults see the benefits. According to Strada data, 68% of adults considering enrolling in higher education programming said they prefer alternative, non-degree programs.

For higher education institutions—which experienced a decrease in undergraduate enrollments of 4.9% overall in Spring 2021 while enrollments in private, non-institutional bootcamps rose 30% in the same period—these offerings can help colleges and universities compete. 92% of survey respondents said alternative credentials help them compete with emerging entities like bootcamps, with nearly 4 out of 10 respondents saying these offerings are very or extremely effective.

Additional key findings:

  • 88% of higher education leaders say new credential initiatives are aligned with their institution’s strategic plan, with half of respondents indicating these initiatives are totally or very aligned with their strategic plan
  • 79% of higher education leaders say labor and occupational data are extremely or very important to informing development of new credential initiatives
  • 71% of higher education leaders say alternative credentials will help them achieve institutional revenue and enrollment goals
  • 58% of higher education leaders say microcredentials allow them to more effectively highlight students’ discrete competencies and skills
  • 54% of higher education leaders say their institutions have embraced new credentialing initiatives


“Microcredentials and other alternative credentials are a key to competitiveness for higher education institutions in this fast-changing environment,” said Amrit Ahluwalia, Editor-in-Chief of The EvoLLLution and Director of Strategic Insights at Modern Campus. “These programs have to be high quality because it’s what students and employers demand, but they generally don’t have to go through incredibly long accreditation processes. This means they can be launched and offered to the students who need them more quickly.”

Microcredentials position higher education institutions to overcome one of the greatest critiques leveled at them, which is a lack of connectivity between programming and the needs of learners and the labor market.

“This report provides us a first real look at how higher education leaders across the industry are adopting and leveraging alternative credentialing models,” said Jim Fong, Chief Research Officer and Director of the Center for Research and Strategy at UPCEA. “The new economy demands highly-skilled individuals who do not necessarily need degrees to enter or advance in their field. Microcredentials and other alternative credential options provide them the opportunity to achieve their goals, and as an industry we need to find ways to meet the needs of employers and adults—and especially of Millennial and Generation Z students.”

To view the complete findings and learn more about the state of microcredentialing and alternative credentialing in the postsecondary space, visit:


Report Methodology/Respondent Profile

Between May 5 and 13, 2021, UPCEA and The EvoLLLution invited their respective deduplicated institutional members to participate in the study with a total of 606 individual survey respondents. It is important to note that multiple individuals from the same institution could participate in the study, though the majority of respondents did not fit this category. The sample for the study is not random, as the membership lists of both organizations were used. However, if the assumption was made that the membership of both organizations represented the professional, continuing and online education units for higher education in North America, then the margin of error would be plus or minus 3% at 95% confidence.



UPCEA is the association for professional, continuing and online education. Founded in 1915, UPCEA now serves most of the leading public and private colleges and universities in North America. With innovative conferences and specialty seminars, research and benchmarking information, professional networking opportunities and timely publications, UPCEA supports its members’ service of contemporary learners and commitment to quality online education and student success. Based in Washington, D.C., UPCEA builds greater awareness of the vital link between adult learners and public policy issues. Visit


About The EvoLLLution

The EvoLLLution is an online publication focused on the transforming higher education industry. Publishing articles and interviews by higher education leaders on the evolving postsecondary space since 2011, The EvoLLLution was founded by Modern Campus to create an open environment for higher education’s most innovative thought leaders to come together and set out a new vision for what the industry can be. Visit


About Modern Campus

Modern Campus is obsessed with empowering its 1,200+ higher education customers to thrive when radical transformation is required to respond to lower student enrollments and revenue, rising costs, crushing student debt and even school closures.  

Powered by Omni CMSDIGARCPresence and Destiny One, the Modern Campus modern learner engagement platform enables innovative institutions to create a “learner to earner” lifecycle that engages modern learners for life. 

Delivering massive personalization, AI-driven recommendations and a modern e-commerce engine, Modern Campus creates a student-first digital experience and removes silos across campus. Presidents and provosts, marketing and IT teams, admissions, registrars, student affairs and CE divisions can partner to attract, enroll, empower, retain, credential and re-engage students with pathways for lifelong learning. 

Learn how Modern Campus is leading the modern learner engagement movement at and follow us on LinkedIn.



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