Researchers shed light on rewards of 'credential stacking'

The impact of "credential stacking" among community college students had long been of interest to Ben Castleman and Katharine Meyer, but they became even more curious about it during the pandemic.

With unemployment rising, the University of Virginia researchers wanted to be able to tell people how much income they could generate with an additional credential, and which job sectors were paying off the most.

Castleman, Meyer and colleague Kelli A. Bird studied students who graduated from the Virginia Community College System between 2009 and 2017.

In observing their employment through the end of 2019, they concluded that adults who return to community colleges to complete additional training or credentials see a 7% increase in their quarterly wages.

In a new paper, they also found that individuals who complete a second credential are four percentage points more likely to be employed than similar individuals who start, but don't complete a stacked credential.

"Our hope," Castleman and Meyer write in an email, "is that our findings on the benefits of stacking credentials reinforce policy and philanthropic efforts to support workers who have experienced job loss because of COVID to explore and pursue additional credentials that may strengthen their employment prospects in the post-COVID economy."


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