The Future of Higher Ed: Microcredentials

Microcredentials are an increasingly popular strategy in higher education. According to Holon IQ, over 88% of institutions consider alternative programming and microcredentials an important part of their strategy for the future. (Not surprising, since the market is forecasted to grow to $20 billion by 2025.)

Yet, preliminary fall 2023 undergraduate enrollment numbers indicate institutions should accelerate those plans to meet the demands of adult learners:

  • Enrollment of traditional students ages 18-20 was down 5% while enrollment of freshmen over the age of 21 rose 10%.
  • Short-term credentials are attracting more students than degree programs.
  • Community colleges account for nearly 60% of undergraduate growth.

Explore Your Alternatives

It’s time to expand your thinking beyond a four-year degree. How are you serving lifelong learners and embracing the opportunity they represent for the future of higher education? Discover how to engage learners through microcredentials.


What are microcredentials?

A microcredential is usually a short course – ranging from a few weeks to months – that verifies competency of a specific real-world skillset. Typically, students are required to complete a series of learning activities, tasks, and assessments to demonstrate competency and earn a certificate or badge.

What benefits do microcredentials bring to higher ed institutions?

Microcredentials offer an opportunity for schools to connect with employers and create meaningful programs that directly serve and skill employees. Partnerships can create consistent enrollment and create new revenue streams. Delivering microcredentials at scale can generate significant revenue.

How do employers view microcredentials?

Microcredentialing is an effective way for employers to upskill or reskill employees. Our research with UPCEA shows employers view microcredentials as an easy way to understand employees’ competencies and skills. The research also found that 95% of employers are at least somewhat familiar with microcredentials, and 68% would like to be approached by a college or university to develop a program.

What should schools consider when developing a microcredential program?

Understanding the employer and workforce landscape – and having the resources to respond to its needs – is vital to developing a microcredential program.

Schools also need to consider whether they have the business development expertise to develop industry partnerships, sell courses, and track performance.

Other considerations include a technology ecosystem tailored to lifelong learners that optimizes learn experiences (think self-service solutions to enroll in courses, access transcripts, and view receipts), industry expert instructors, and program and course management for engaging content. Our infographic, 8 Successful Tips for Building a Micro-Credential Program, outlines how to build a program that meets your market’s needs. If your school doesn’t quite have the necessary components in-house, working with an innovation enabler like Collegis Education can get you there.