Earning more credentials


A growing number of students earning two- and four-year degrees already have a prior credential, whether a certificate, associate degree or baccalaureate, according to a new National Student Clearinghouse Research Center study.

The overall number of first-time graduates earning associate degrees continues to dip (down 1.2 percent in 2017-18), according to the study. The number of students under age 25 earning an associate degree has actually steadily increased over the past few years (up 2.3 percent in 2017-18), but it’s the number those 25 and older that continues to drop, especially among those age 40-plus.

But the report highlights that students are increasingly earning more than one credential.

Among associate-degree earners, 8.4 percent who received their degree in 2017-18 had a prior certificate, compared to 6.7 percent in 2012-13. Another 8.2 percent had a previous associate degree, compared to 6.9 percent in 2012-13. And 4.1 percent had a baccalaureate or higher, compared to 3.7 percent in 2012-13.

Among bachelor’s-degree earners, 21.2 percent who received their degree in 2017-18 already had an associate degree, compared to 19.5 percent in 2012-13. About 1.4 percent had a certificate, compared to 1.2 percent in 2012-13, and 3.3 percent had a prior bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 3.2 percent in 2012-13.

Among certificate earners in 2017-18, 10.2 percent had a prior certificate, compared to 7.6 percent in 2012-13. About 8.3 percent had an associate degree, compared to 7.3 percent in 2012-13.

The study found similar trends among degree earners age 40 and older. Among this population who earned an associate degree in 2017-18, 14.3 percent had a previous certificate, compared to 9.9 percent in 2012-13. Twelve percent had a prior associate degree, compared to 9.1 percent in 2012-13. And 7.5 percent had a baccalaureate, compared to 5.5 percent six years prior.

Among students age 40 and older who earned a bachelor’s degree in 2017-18, 48.5 percent had an associate degree, compared to 43.8 percent in 2012-13. About 3.5 percent had a prior credential, compared to 3.0 percent in 2012-13. And 5.9 percent previously earned a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 4.6 percent in 2012-13.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
Matthew Dembicki edits Community College Daily and serves as associate vice president of communications for the American Association of Community Colleges.
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