Delaware’s WilmU Increases Opportunities for Individuals – and Companies – through Dual-credit, ‘Stackable Credential’ Programs

September 13, 2021

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the American workforce and employers has resulted in a new variety of trends. One of the most positive trends has been the renewed interest by companies and individuals in certification programs. Companies are looking for ways to attract and retain motivated workers and for individuals to find jobs — often in new industries — and position themselves for future promotions.

And that’s good news for schools like Wilmington University (WilmU) that offer Dual-Credit Certificates® that enable students to earn a sought-after certificate and earn credit toward a bachelor’s or master’s degree at the same time on their own schedules. For older students, the certificates enable them to refresh skills and learn new ones.

Programs like WilmU’s option of both in-person and remote learning appeal to companies that are thinking about moving to Delaware, planning to expand here, or just wanting to offer consistent programs to employees regionally or across the country, said Eileen Donnelly, Ed.D., the school’s vice president of enrollment management.

“In those cases, we tell them that WilmU has a range of delivery options that can deliver content to people when they need it and enable students to gain knowledge in a short period of time,” Donnelly said.

Donnelly said WilmU’s focus is “local, regional, and national, in that order. But an increasing number of students across the board — as well as our employer partners — are excited about the ability to earn a credential either as a stand-alone or as a milestone on their way to an undergraduate or graduate degree.”

WilmU has nurtured numerous partnerships, some with regional and national operations, including Barclays, Bank of America, ChristianaCare, CSC Global, JPMorgan Chase, Nemours, Wawa, WSFS, the Mary Campbell Center, Wakefern with ShopRite, Zip Code Wilmington and BAYADA.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for CSC employees to further their career-related education, and we’re delighted to offer it,” said Kristyn Dilenno, global human resources director at CSC. “This partnership brings together two Delaware institutions with more than 170 years of combined experience of improving our community.”

WilmU began its Dual-Credit Certificate® program seven years ago and pioneered nationally the concept of stackable credentials, high-demand certificates that offered content students said they needed to either move ahead in their companies or find new jobs.

Each certificate requires 15 (and in some cases 18) credits – five or six courses – that can go toward a broader undergraduate degree. For example, a student planning to earn a bachelor of science degree in computer and network security (cybersecurity) could first earn certificates in digital evidence discovery and digital evidence investigation. A student could also earn a certificate outside his or her core degree, such as a student seeking a degree in law, policy and political science also earning a certificate in social media management and using that for another role.

Delaware is home to far and away the highest portion of WilmU’s 20,000-plus students, most of whom are working adults. The next largest block comes from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland, and the vast majority are pursuing degrees. 

WilmU now has 200+ degree and certificate programs available at all undergraduate and graduate levels, including 88 certification programs (52 for undergrads and 36 for graduates). Majors are focused on career relevancy, such as an array of healthcare options and a degree in cybersecurity. All academic programs incorporate a guided pathways approach to keep students progressing on time, on track and on budget.

Relevant work experience can apply toward a credential using a prior learning assessment (PLA). Because WilmU operates primarily in seven-week academic blocks (two per term), students can complete a certification within a year if they take one course per block. Undergraduate classes currently cost $1,170 while graduate classes cost $1,500 each.

“Most of our students are working adults,” Donnelly said. “They can choose how to take courses, and for students who juggle numerous responsibilities, that matters. The course objectives, assessments and content are all the same between online and in-person classes.”

According to the Georgetown University Center for Education, “the number of occupational certificates awarded has skyrocketed more than 800% over the past 30 years – but not enough to satisfy employer demand.”

Employer demand for skilled talent plays a key role in Delaware’s statewide economic development efforts.

“We have found over the years that our efforts to attract or keep businesses and workers in Delaware are greatly enhanced by the broad range of development programs that our state’s great universities offer,” said Delaware Prosperity Partnership President and CEO Kurt Foreman. “WilmU has a national reputation of being able to meet the educational needs of employees at an affordable price in a short period of time and is an important piece of our overall economic-development effort.”