UPCEA Receives Grant from Walmart to Accelerate Growth of Credential Innovation in Higher Education

August 21, 2023

Significant grant will build capacity in higher ed for industry and learning ecosystem

WASHINGTON (August 21, 2023) – UPCEA, the online and professional education association, is honored to receive a $395,000 grant from Walmart to accelerate work in the alternative credentials space with a project titled,Building Capacity, Expanding Pathways: Accelerating the Growth of Credential Innovation in Higher Education.” 

Through the grant project, UPCEA will facilitate the adoption of scalable business and program models for colleges and universities, based on market research tied to employer needs. The project will utilize a peer learning community to support the development and delivery of noncredit, short-term credentials.

Several models are emerging across the country in the areas of non-degree credentials and credential pathways that provide opportunities to upskill and re-skill. To accelerate growth of credential innovation, the project will:

  1. Identify (through national benchmarking research) a number of viable and scalable credential business and program models for use by colleges and universities;
  2. Form a pilot consortium of 8-10 UPCEA member institutions that will use these models to deeply engage local or regional businesses in the development of curriculum to upskill or reskill current and future employees; and
  3. Disseminate a “playbook” and best practices to help scale credential innovation across the field. 

The project will build on the infrastructure related to alternative credentials that UPCEA has built in recent years, including: 

“Walmart shares UPCEA’s vision of the transformative power of non-degree credentials in higher education, and we are thrilled to be supporting this work,” said Patti Constantakis, Director, Retail Opportunity at “Ultimately, this will create more opportunities for all people to grow and advance, which our team has been investing in for over 10 years.”

“Non-degree credentials are a new frontier that is a decade or so behind the evolution of online learning, and the vision that informs this project is based on UPCEA’s success in helping institutions grow—and scale—quality online learning at the enterprise level,” said Bob Hansen, CEO of UPCEA. “Our long-term goal, beyond the term of this project, is for more two- and four-year institutions to develop and deliver skills-based, alternative credential programs that align with employer needs and high demand jobs.”

Amy Heitzman, UPCEA Deputy CEO and Chief Learning Officer, and Aaron Brower, Special Advisor to UPCEA, are serving Co-Principal Investigators for the one-year grant. 

A call for proposals to join the project consortium will be shared with UPCEA members on August 23.

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UPCEA is the online and professional education association. Our members positively impact millions of lives by continuously reinventing higher education. We advance the professional field through cutting edge research, professional development, networking and mentorship, conferences and seminars, and stakeholder advocacy. Our collaborative, entrepreneurial community brings together decision makers and influencers in education, industry, research, and policy interested in improving educational access and outcomes. Learn more about us at and follow us on social media @UPCEA.


About Philanthropy at Walmart represents the philanthropic efforts of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation. By focusing where the business has unique strengths, works to tackle key social and environmental issues and collaborate with others to spark long-lasting systemic change. Walmart has stores in 24 countries, employs more than 2 million associates and does business with thousands of suppliers who, in turn, employ millions of people. is helping people live better by supporting programs to accelerate upward job mobility for frontline workers, advance equity, address hunger, build inclusive economic opportunity for people in supply chains, protect and restore nature, reduce waste and emissions, and build strong communities where Walmart operates. To learn more, visit or connect on Twitter @Walmartorg.



Molly Nelson, UPCEA Vice President of Communications, [email protected] 


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