What is Education Quality Outcomes Standards (EQOS), the nonprofit JFF has acquired?
EQOS is a nonprofit organization that establishes universal, independent measures of education and training program quality to help people navigate the increasingly crowded and confusing education and training marketplace. The EQOS quality assurance framework helps learners and workers, education institutions and postsecondary training providers, private investors, governments, and others identify high-quality opportunities that lead to equitable economic advancement.
The vision of EQOS is to support lifelong learning and career navigation by making trusted, objective information about education and training provider outcomes in the United States accessible and useful to all. EQOS’s quality assurance criteria and metrics focus on real-world results that consumers seek, including job placement and earnings. By increasing the public’s understanding of the value of various education and training options, EQOS improves individual decision-making about how to pursue career goals and opens new avenues to equitable economic advancement for all.
Current clients and partners include state departments of higher education and/or workforce development in Colorado, Indiana, and New Jersey, as well as private nonprofit and for-profit organizations, including SkillUp, CAEL, Climb Credit, and Credential Engine. Funders to date have included Walmart Foundation, Strada Education Network, and Walton Family Foundation. EQOS also works directly with education and training providers to improve program outcomes.
Why has JFF acquired EQOS?
As education and training programs have proliferated outside traditional educational institutions, the postsecondary education and training marketplace has become a bewildering maze of providers—public, private, in-person, online, nonprofit, and for-profit. American learners and workers today must navigate nearly 1 million unique educational programs, each issuing their own unique credentials. The choices include not only traditional 2- and 4-year degrees but also digital badges, certificates, licenses, apprenticeships, and industry-recognized certifications. The number of options available is only expected to grow at an accelerating rate.
Demand for these options has skyrocketed, as the vast majority of jobs now require education and training beyond high school. But the lack of credible data about provider quality causes widespread confusion. This is a particularly difficult problem for individuals seeking high-quality, reliable programs to launch their postsecondary education or meet their upskilling needs and for employers seeking high-quality, reliable candidates to fill their workforce needs. The disorder also prevents public and private investors from knowing where to target funding. And providers themselves lack clear insights into areas for improvement. Ultimately, the chaotic landscape creates and perpetuates unacceptable inequities, limiting who can access economic opportunity in the United States.
At JFF, we will use and scale the EQOS Quality Assurance Standards to help move learners and workers from confusion to clarity through new, equitable career navigation models that provide personalized lifelong learning experiences. We’ll advise employers about ways to benefit from trusted, reliable information to help them judge whether a candidate’s credentials mean what they claim. We’ll guide state agencies, venture investors, and others on ways to use the information to make sound decisions about where to invest and why. And we’ll partner with education institutions, training providers, program aggregators, and career navigation platforms to help them identify and implement ways to improve their results.
Ultimately, our work will increase the return on educational investment for millions of individuals, including Black people, Latinx people, and members of other population groups currently underrepresented in high-value credential programs that lead to high-wage careers.
How will JFF use the EQOS quality assurance framework?
JFF will use the EQOS quality assurance framework to accelerate and grow our work focused on creating a more transparent, efficient, and outcomes-focused education and training ecosystem. We aim to partner with and convene organizations developing similar frameworks to help streamline and strengthen these efforts. We will leverage our subject matter experts, research and technical capacity, and partners to continue developing the framework, creating an industry-leading, user-friendly tool to increase understanding of the quality of postsecondary programs and track outcomes data.
We also will develop new tools and services to help a wide range of partners integrate the EQOS standards into their systems; collect, analyze, and report outcomes data; generate insights about what works, and make the information widely available and useful.
JFF also plans to use the framework in the following ways:
- To inform our racial economic equity practice, which emphasizes improving education and career navigation services for Black learners and workers
- To guide our postsecondary and corporate advisory offerings
- To develop our data infrastructure to help collect, track, analyze, and share insights based on postsecondary quality data
- To integrate the work we’ve already begun to develop a Quality Provider Index, designed to evaluate the quality of learning providers, programs, and models
- To enhance the data available about Eligible Training Provider programs, which the U.S. Department of Labor allows to receive key federal workforce funding
The acquisition of EQOS aligns with JFF’s five areas of focus—the key areas where we believe we can be a leading engine to drive equitable impact: creating worker and learner opportunity, ensuring program quality and efficacy, strengthening career and education navigation, integrating learning and work, and building strong regional economies.
How does the EQOS quality assurance framework help people navigate the postsecondary education and training marketplace?
At a time of significant disruption in the American workforce and education systems, workers must prepare for numerous job changes throughout their lives, supported by continual lifelong learning opportunities. To meet this reality, the number of postsecondary education and training offerings has exploded over the past five years. In addition to traditional associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, more than half a million different digital badges, certificates, licenses, apprenticeships, and industry-recognized certifications are available. Governments, employers, and consumers are projected to spend more than $7 trillion per year on education and training by 2025.
This represents an unprecedented opportunity for learners and workers who want to gain skills and acquire credentials to explore new career paths. Unfortunately, the credential marketplace has become a confusing maze, with no consistent vetting system—an environment where bad actors can prosper. Without access to trusted information about program quality, it’s difficult for individuals to find, finance, and flourish in the programs best suited for their advancement.
EQOS’s established framework for quality assurance enables programs to report student outcomes in a transparent, trustworthy, and comparison-based manner—through the lens of the customers, the learners who pay to attend, and the employers who consider those individuals for jobs. To that end, the framework examines a range of near- and medium-term outcomes related to student learning, program completion, job placement, earnings, and client satisfaction.
How will the EQOS acquisition help JFF drive greater equity in postsecondary education and training?
Black people, Latinx people, and other population groups are currently underrepresented in high-value credential programs that lead to high-wage careers. For example, more than two-thirds of all Black students are enrolled in public higher education institutions. However, research reveals that Black students are underrepresented in the majors that lead to higher wages and overrepresented in majors like social work and community organization, which pay less. Together, EQOS and JFF will provide greater transparency on the return on investment of education and training programs by disaggregating outcomes by race, income, and background to inspire institutions toward more equitable advancement for all.
How will the EQOS acquisition benefit JFF’s partners and customers?
The acquisition will benefit JFF’s partners and customers in numerous ways. In addition to providing the field with a proven methodology for evaluating training program quality, JFF will:
- Help training programs, higher education institutions, state agencies, venture investors, and others make sound decisions about where to invest and why.
- Advise employers about ways to assess the quality of credentials their job candidates present.
- Scale the number of people empowered to make well-informed choices about training providers and educational offerings, including degrees, certificates, industry-recognized credentials, and other short-term training. This will increase the return on investment for millions of individuals, including Black and Latinx workers and members of other population groups currently underrepresented in high-value credential programs leading to high-wage careers.
- Enhance JFF knowledge products and research publications, helping the field understand which postsecondary models work well and why.
- Grow the JFF knowledge base and help inform JFF policy positions to benefit regional leaders needing more explicit guidance on what is working in their economy.
What are the benefits of the acquisition for EQOS’s constituents?
JFF provides a national platform that will help scale and accelerate the impact of the EQOS quality assurance framework while maintaining the independence of the standards themselves. The acquisition will enable EQOS to leverage JFF’s postsecondary, workforce, and employer networks to expand the use of the framework and draw on JFF’s education and workforce expertise to support current EQOS partners implementing the framework within their organizations.
What is the origin of EQOS?
EQOS’s work grew out of a U.S. Department of Education initiative, the Educational Quality Through Innovative Partnerships (EQUIP) pilot, launched in 2015. EQUIP opened federal financial aid for a group of programs that were partnerships between colleges and nontraditional training providers and had innovative and rigorous quality assurance. EQOS was formally established as an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 2020 by a group of private and public education, workforce, government, and corporate leaders.
How will EQOS operate at JFF?
EQOS is a wholly-owned 501(c)(3) nonprofit subsidiary of JFF and will maintain its own board of directors. However, the EQOS quality assurance framework will be governed independently by a separate advisory board to be named soon. JFF will provide fiscal management of EQOS and oversee operations and growth, including management and implementation of the framework.
The continuing members of the EQOS board of directors are Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education; Elise Scanlon, principal of the Elise Scanlon Law Group; and Michael Horn, a national thought leader, advisor, and author on education and workforce innovation and a senior strategist with Guild Education. Two new members will represent education and workforce systems and strengthen connections with JFF: Tameshia Bridges Mansfield, JFF’s vice president for workforce innovation, and Lisette Nieves, president of the Fund for the City of New York and a member of the JFF board of directors.
How will the acquisition affect staffing at EQOS and JFF?
EQOS CEO Kristin Sharp will serve as a senior advisor to the newly formed initiative. As part of the acquisition, other EQOS staff will join JFF. We anticipate expanding the team in the coming months to support and grow EQOS.
EQOS will initially be led by JFF Senior Innovation Officer Stephen Yadzinski. He will manage the integration of EQOS and JFF strategies and initiatives and ensure a seamless transition internally and externally.
Where can I learn more about the announcement?
Read today’s press release for more information about the acquisition.
Tune in to our LinkedIn Live event on February 17th at 1:30 pm ET for a live discussion with Michael Horn, Steve Yadzinski and Tameshia Bridges-Mansfield to learn more. Register here.
For more information on the EQOS quality assurance framework, visit www.eqos.org.
For more information about JFF, visit www.jff.org.