ODU Research Report: Postsecondary Short-Term Credentials Lead to Short- and Long-Term Salary Gains

(RICHMOND) – Earning a short-term workforce credential offers an immediate boost to an individual’s salary, and that benefit can continue for at least a decade. That is the take-away from a recently released Old Dominion Research Report that examined before-and-after wages for nearly 15,000 individuals who earned those credentials in Virginia and Louisiana, and the long-term wage gains of similar students in Colorado. The report also found that some of the strongest wage gains occur in the lowest-income zip codes.

“This research report from Old Dominion University uses actual data from short-term credentialing programs to confirm that investing in these programs yields great dividends not just for individuals but for our economy. Federal higher education policies must respond to the need for skills training that creates pathways to the middle class for American workers. My bipartisan bill with Senator Portman, the JOBS Act, recognizes this need and would expand federal financial aid to quality short-term credentials, not just traditional degrees. It’s time that we modernize our higher education system and better meet the needs of today’s students,” U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said.

            The report found that credential completers at community colleges in Virginia and Louisiana experienced immediate annual wage gains of 19-24%, with post-credential wages that “far exceed” those with only a high school diploma in nearly every industry, according to Dr. Chris R. Glass, the report’s author. Virginia data also indicated that those salary gains were even stronger, at 28%, in communities that ranked among the commonwealth’s poorest.

“We’ve long known this through anecdote. These credentials offer people an important chance at the American Dream and a pathway into the middle class,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges, which offers short-term credentials through its FastForward training program. “This research report offers important hard data that can guide vital policy conversations in Congress and statehouses across the nation.”

            Researchers further found that those salary increases have staying power. Colorado students experienced not only that immediate salary bump but were still seeing it five years later (29% higher earnings) and a decade (44% higher earnings) after completing their short-term certification program.

            The research report entitled, “Strong Wage Gains from Short-Term Credentials: Employment Outcomes from Virginia, Louisiana, and Colorado” was conducted by Dr. Chris R. Glass, associate professor in the Department of Educational Foundations & Leadership and published in December 2019.


About Virginia’s Community Colleges: Since 1966, Virginia’s Community Colleges have given everyone the opportunity to learn and develop the right skills so lives and communities are strengthened. By making higher education and workforce training available in every part of Virginia, we elevate all of Virginia. Together, Virginia’s Community Colleges serve more than 280,000 students each year. For more information, please visit www.vccs.edu.


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