Kansas Advances Transfer and Workforce Goals through Credential Transparency

The state of Kansas is stepping up efforts to clarify educational pathways and transfer options for current and prospective students.

With Kansas employers struggling to hire skilled workers and nearly 500,000 working-age Kansans without postsecondary education or training credentials, the Kansas Board of Regents has several strategies in place to bridge the gap and make pathways more evident.

“Kansas is dedicated to providing all its residents with accurate, timely and actionable information about credentials that lead to good jobs,” said Blake Flanders, president and CEO of the Kansas Board of Regents. “The first step to connecting people with high-demand jobs is making sure the education and training path is clear and easy to understand.”

Kansas was one of the first states to be involved with Credential Engine, a nonprofit that maintains an open repository of validated credentials including degrees, diplomas, certificates and badges based on a common descriptor language. Kansas publishes its credentialing data to Credential Engine in real time, using an applications programming interface that updates daily. Creating the infrastructure for this system was a major undertaking, according to Marti Leisinger, associate director of Data, Research and Planning for the Kansas Board of Regents. But now that it is built, the system is easily managed and maintained.

“The institutional research staff across the state are crucial to having accurate, verified, and comparable information for prospective students,” said Ms. Leisinger. “This is a huge responsibility for colleges and universities to continuously update their data, which is why we meet often to support them and hear their ideas.”  

In partnership with Credential Engine, Kansas recently published more than 2,400 validated diplomas, degrees and certificates to the Credential Finder. The inventory is standardized to reflect nationally established terminology and is used to populate various web-based tools available in Kansas for students, parents, adult learners, and others who want to understand and compare their options.

Kansans have access to several tools that pull from its central course and program inventory to help students navigate their way from education to a job or career.

Accelerating Opportunity Kansas (AO-K) is a Kansas initiative that delivers career and technical education at the same time as adult basic skills instruction. Kansas recently published their program list “Accelerating Opportunities: Kansas Program List” to the Credential Finder.

The Transfer Kansas Portal helps students see how their prior coursework counts toward future credentials. This state system serves as the foundation for Kansas to publish system-wide transfer courses to the Credential Finder.

“Our Board of Regents has set intentional goals around closing opportunity gaps for traditionally underserved young people and families,” said Nathan Snyder, data engineer for the Board. “This work directly supports those goals. The sky is the limit on what Kansas can do to make data connections that better inform students and families. We have benefited from strong support from our board because they see how this advances the goals they set. Their support has enabled us to secure resources needed to do this right.”

The Kansas Board of Regents is also leading efforts to align technical postsecondary programs to the needs of industry in the state, in partnership with the state’s Department of Commerce and representatives from industry. The collaboration allows industry to identify essential competencies and exit points within programs, and it supports students earning valued industry credentials. Kansas has explored options available within the Credential Finder to align and include industry credentials.

The Midwestern Higher Education Compact convenes a user group of those interested in advancing their states’ progress in making their credentials more universally transparent and accessible to current and students, parents, employers and workers. See MHEC's Midwest Credential Transparency Alliance page or contact Jenny Parks, MHEC vice president, for more information.