ACCT and ESG to Launch Noncredit and Credit Alignment Lab

Higher ed organizations receive $1.2 million grant to support new or improved pathways between non-credit and credit programs at community colleges

August 19, 2021

Washington, D.C. — August 19, 2021 — The Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) and Education Strategy Group (ESG) today announced the launch of the Noncredit and Credit Alignment Lab (NCAL), a two-year initiative to support 10 community college governance units’ efforts to develop new or improved pathways between non-credit and credit programs. The project is supported by a $1.2 million grant from ECMC Foundation.

Non-credit programming can be a steppingstone to further education and training that leads to higher earnings and greater career sustainability. Unfortunately, our systems are designed to discourage rather than facilitate pathways across non-credit and credit programs, according to ESG research. The result is that many students in non-credit programs are left without pathways to additional learning, and colleges fail to take advantage of a significant population of engaged learners ready to enroll in credit-bearing programs. To achieve greater equity and develop more resilient and responsive systems following a global pandemic, community colleges must bridge the divide between non-credit and credit programs.

“Community colleges offer both credit and noncredit programs to support the needs of their students,” said ACCT President and CEO J. Noah Brown. “Aligning these programs is critical for both students and for colleges’ institutional goals. We are grateful that ECMC Foundation understands the importance of this endeavor.”

“To position themselves as drivers of economic recovery and mobility, community colleges need to scale programs in fields where well-paying jobs are growing, and they need to make it easier for learners to gain the skills and credentials needed for success,” said ESG President and CEO Matt Gandal. “Breaking down the historic barriers that have separated non-credit and credit-bearing programs is a critical step. ESG is pleased to join ACCT in building on the work we began last year with the publication of A More Unified Community College, which offered strategies and resources for institutions to begin to aligning their non-credit and credit programs.”

NCAL will provide meaningful spaces for community college leaders to learn and receive support from their peers and national experts. As part of this initiative, community colleges will collectively diagnose current efforts underway to align programs, set a vision, build the case among college constituencies, and receive accountability from their peers to implement. By the end of the initiative, each participating college will develop new or improve current pathways between non-credit and credit functions that address critical barriers to alignment related to program design, institutional policy, governance structures, administrative functions and student supports.

Through this initiative, ACCT and ESG will build the case among more community colleges that non-credit and credit alignment is critical for students—because it provides a pathway to higher-level credentials that lead to higher wages and more sustainable careers—and colleges—because it offers a new on-ramp for enrollments.

“The disconnect between credit and non-credit pathways has made it exceedingly difficult for students to advance in their career and educational pursuits,” said Peter J. Taylor, president of ECMC Foundation. “We’re thrilled to support the development of the Noncredit and Credit Alignment Lab because it has the potential to remove those barriers for students transitioning between programs and make meaningful credentials more attainable.”

About ACCT

The Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) is a non-profit educational organization of governing boards, representing more than 6,500 elected and appointed trustees who govern over 1,200 community, technical, and junior colleges in the United States and beyond.

About Education Strategy Group

Education Strategy Group (ESG) works with America's education, business, and civic leaders to expand economic opportunity and mobility by increasing educational attainment. We are driven by the conviction that a robust education system aligned with workforce demands leads to a stronger, more equitable society.

About ECMC Foundation

ECMC Foundation is a Los Angeles-based, nationally focused foundation whose mission is to inspire and to facilitate improvements that affect educational outcomes—especially among underserved populations—through evidence-based innovation. It is one of several affiliates under the ECMC Group enterprise based in Minneapolis. ECMC Foundation makes investments in two focus areas: College Success and Career Readiness; and uses a spectrum of funding structures, including strategic grantmaking and program-related investments, to invest in both nonprofit and for-profit ventures. Working with grantees, partners and peers, ECMC Foundation’s vision is for all learners to unlock their fullest potential. Learn more about ECMC Foundation by visiting and ECMC Group by visiting