Non-Credit Programming: A Quality Assurance Framework and Case Studies from the New England Commission of Higher Education

The New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) is aware that there has been dramatic growth in non-credit programming offerings across all sectors of higher education and from non-higher education organizations as well. Knowing that it remains a challenge for individuals and businesses to discern which non-credit programs are of high-quality and produce meaningful outcomes for participants, NECHE undertook a year-long process, with funding from the Lumina Foundation, to identify the characteristics of quality non-credit programs in an effort to draft a Quality Assurance Framework for potential use in evaluating and recognizing high-quality non-credit programs.

We began by assembling a taskforce with representatives from six of NECHE’s member institutions: Bunker Hill Community College; Central Connecticut State University; Great Bay Community College; Holyoke Community College; Northern Essex Community College; and Rhode Island College. Over the course of several meetings, the taskforce developed a definition of non-credit programming, identified the characteristics and aspirational characteristics of high-quality non-credit programming, and, as mentioned above, created a draft Quality Assurance Framework structured around those characteristics.

We also asked the six institutions to create case studies that tells their non-credit programming stories. Each case study is grounded in the Quality Assurance Framework dimensions and presents a reflective analysis of the institution’s strengths/challenges and next steps in its non-credit programming work. While each case study is a stand-along narrative, together they provide a broader picture of what high-quality non-credit programming looks like in practice.

NECHE is pleased to share in this document both the draft Quality Assurance Framework and the six institutional case studies. We welcome your thoughts and feedback and look forward to finding ways to continue to advance this work.

We would like to acknowledge the Lumina Foundation and, in particular, Kermit Kaleba, Debra Humphreys, and Paul Gaston for supporting this project and for providing invaluable feedback and guidance along the way. We would also like to recognize the incredible work of the teams from each institution that participated in this grant project. The resulting Framework reflects their expertise and insights into the field of non-credit programming that is still developing.

Thank you.

Laura M. Gambino, Vice President

Paula A. Harbecke, Vice President

Larry Schall, President

New England Commission of Higher Education

NECHE Non-Credit Quality Assurance Framework


   Bunker Hill Community College

   Central Connecticut State University

   Great Bay Community College

   Holyoke Community College

   Northern Essex Community College

   Rhode Island College