Credential Transparency and Informed Decision-Making in Indiana

We, at WCET, often hear how institutions and state systems are being pushed by state leaders to be more attentive to state workforce needs. We also hear about the innovations that are happening in the many types of postsecondary credentials that are now available. We are pleased to have as our guest, our friend, Ken Sauer from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. With Ken’s help, Indiana has been a leader in thinking about how consumer needs in the confusing credentials market and transparency about what is being offered. Ken shares Indiana’s advances in partnering with Credential Engine. Good work Ken and thank you for sharing!

 -Russ Poulin, WCET


Because postsecondary education is not compulsory, it functions like a market. To function well, markets require sufficient and reliable information, upon which to base decisions, hence the need for credential transparency.  

Here “credentials” refers to any award that signifies mastery of a set of competencies by the person earning the award, including diplomas, certificates, and degrees as well as certifications, badges, other micro-credentials, licenses, apprenticeships, and military training. “Transparency” refers to the ability of anyone – learner, policymaker, or other stakeholder – to easily access, navigate, and compare as much information as possible, all in a common language, about credentials of interest.

Indiana is committed to credential transparency. For more than four years has looked to Credential Engine and its Credential Transparency Descriptor Language (CTDL) as the means and common language to achieve this goal. Initiated by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education (the “Commission”), multiple state agencies and all public colleges and universities are now working in partnership to further credential transparency.

Efforts to date have focused on publishing a critical mass of information to the Indiana Credential Registry (the “Registry”), a state-specific subset of the national Credential Engine Registry. While much data has already been published, and more information is continuously being added, increasing attention is now directed to integrating the data in the Registry with existing tools that help prospective students and other learners to think through their career goals and find education and training programs to achieve those goals.

Data Already Published or In Process

As the state postsecondary education coordinating body, the Commission was well positioned to jump start scaling up the Registry by publishing, initially on behalf of the institutions, a set of basic information about all certificate and degree programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels offered by all public two- and four-year colleges and universities…some 3,000 programs. We also have two Indiana independent universities on the Registry, as well as one proprietary university, and would like to have the remaining two dozen Indiana independents on as well.

This basic data included the program name, a description of the program, a URL to a departmental or program-specific landing page, the number of credit hours required to complete the program, tuition and fee information, institutional accreditation, and whether the program was offered through distance education.

With this foundation in place, attention shifted to publishing additional data about programs:

  • Specialized Accreditation. This is an important indicator of quality, so the Commission began by publishing the specialized accreditation held by programs in engineering, nursing, social work, dental hygiene, athletic training education, nutrition and dietetics, and clinical laboratory sciences. Other specialized accreditations are steadily being added through institutional efforts and visiting web sites of selected accrediting agencies.
  • Licensure. In partnership with the Professional Licensing Agency, the state’s umbrella agency for most licensing boards, twenty health-related licensing boards, and the 47 licenses they issue, were added to the Registry. Links have been published between State Board of Nursing approved nursing programs and the LPN and RN licenses they qualify graduates to earn. We will do the same thing for the other health and non-health licensing boards/licenses and the education programs that prepare graduates to become licensed. Something similar is being done in tandem with the Department of Education, which is responsible for licensing teachers in Indiana. Working with the State Board of Nursing, we have also published pass rates on the NCLEX exams on the Registry; we intend to do the same for other fields where licensure exam results are available.
  • Return on Investment. The Commission, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD), and the state’s Management Performance Hub have generated earnings data for graduates of all programs one, three, five, and ten years after graduation. We are in the process of publishing this data for all programs whose data was not suppressed due to small cohort size.
  • Transfer of Credit. The Indiana College Core, a 30-semester hour general education core based on competencies, and some 20 Single Articulation [2+2] Pathways, also competency-based, all of which transfer statewide throughout the public sector, have been published to the Registry.
  • Competencies. The most important of the 500+ CTDL Descriptors is one describing the competencies a credential holder is supposed to have mastered. Ivy Tech Community College, Indiana’s statewide community college system accredited as a single institution, has published competencies for all of its associate degrees and is doing the same for its certificate programs. Purdue University Global has also published competencies for all of the degree programs it offers. Our goal is to publish competencies for all programs offered by public institutions.
  • Eligible Training Provider List (ETPL). While colleges and universities are at the center of our educational and training ecosystem, non-traditional, non-collegiate providers can also provide a valuable entry into employment and a foundation for further education. Indiana’s DWD is committed to publishing the ETPL to the Registry, and Indiana is piloting the Education Equity Outcomes Standards (EQOS) framework to assure the quality of these non-traditional providers.
  • Certifications. Industry and professional certifications valued by employers can represent important credentials for career mobility, both at the entry and advanced levels. Working with other states, Credential Engine, and organizations like Workcred and Advance CTE, Indiana is committed to expanding the certifications published on the Registry, including those on DWD’s list of Promoted Certifications, and connecting those to the education and training programs that prepare learners to earn them.
  • High Schools. Some 64 percent of recent Indiana high school graduates completed their secondary education while also earning postsecondary credit. Indiana’s extensive, well-supported dual credit system is focused on making it possible for high school students to complete before they graduate:
    • postsecondary certificates,
    • the Indiana College Core. and/or,
    • certificates available through our Next Level Programs of Study, as Indiana CTE programs are currently called.

An important element of this initiative is to be clear about which high schools meet the criteria to be listed as delivery sites for the Indiana College Core. Being listed will encourage other school leaders to consider how they too might meet these criteria, thus expanding dual credit opportunities. To that end, we have published more than 90 high schools on the Registry, which currently meet these criteria. In partnership with the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet, the Commission will also publish career centers that make available postsecondary CTE credentials.

Using the Registry

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

As a pioneer scale-up state, much of Indiana’s emphasis over the past four years has been devoted to refining and expanding data published to the Registry, which now represents a unique and rich source of information about Indiana’s education and training ecosystem. While much more data remains to be published, our attention is now turning to how learners of all ages can equitably access this data and use it effectively for informed decisions about how to achieve their career and personal goals through education and training. To that end, Indiana’s newly licensed statewide Career Explorer software will point to the Registry for information about education and training.

Digital Credentials

Through a long-standing partnership with Parchment, Indiana has a mature Indiana e-Transcript Program, which is universally used at the high school-to-college level (200,000 transcripts sent annually) and is now being implemented at the college-to-college level. Ivy Tech Community College has licensed Parchment’s Award Diploma Services product that permits all its graduates to be issued a digital credential, which has a navigation link to the Registry and allows an employer to access all the information about the credential and the College that has been published to the Registry, including the competencies associated with that credential.

Concluding Thoughts

Credential Engine has revolutionized the way we think about credentials and increased exponentially our ability to transform previously isolated data into linked, open data. Our state’s commitment to break down data silos has also helped catalyze inter-agency collaboration to unprecedented levels. Indiana’s embrace of credential transparency aims to give learners the information they need to make informed decisions about educational choices.


Ken Sauer
Senior Associate Commissioner and Chief Academic Officer
Indiana Commission for Higher Education


Posted by

My name is Lindsey Rae Downs. I am the Assistant Director of Communications and Community for WCET, the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies. I work remotely from beautiful Helena, MT.

Leave a Reply