This report examines the structural divide between for-credit and noncredit postsecondary education and the problems it presents for people seeking better jobs with higher pay.

It highlights innovative ways that some community colleges are trying to bridge the gap—creating more seamless pathways between credit and noncredit coursework —and provides policy considerations to encourage more colleges and statewide systems to adopt these models.

In today’s changing economy, there are many new jobs, and many existing jobs now require new skills. As a result, more and more people are turning to postsecondary education and training to boost their career prospects.

But the path forward is often unclear, filled with a confusing array of choices. For example, learners must decide whether they want to take just a single class, enroll in a degree program, or pursue a certification. Adding to the confusion is that some credential programs offer for-credit classes while others are noncredit courses of study. It’s critical for students to understand the differences between the two types of credential programs, but many do not.