“The college degree is becoming the new high school diploma: the new minimum requirement, albeit an expensive one, for getting even the lowest-level job,” the Times reported last week. “Consider the 45-person law firm of Busch, Slipakoff & Schuh here in Atlanta, a place that has seen tremendous growth in the college-educated population. Like other employers across the country, the firm hires only people with a bachelor’s degree, even for jobs that do not require college-level skills. This prerequisite applies to everyone, including the receptionist, paralegals, administrative assistants and file clerks. Even the office ‘runner’ — the in-house courier who, for $10 an hour, ferries documents back and forth between the courthouse and the office — went to a four-year school.”
“There’s an idea that the person with a degree is ‘better’ than a person without one,” she wrote. “If so, I have to ask, better for what? Yes, having a four year degree does show a degree of dedication. You have to pick a major, take class after class, write paper after paper and work on dreaded group projects.”
But those skills, as useful as they are, aren’t only gained in college. And employers have to weigh those skills against the fact that grads might not make the most loyal employees.
“No one enrolled in college, shelled out fantastic amounts of tuition and studied for hours to memorize the philosophies of 40 different dead people with ambitions of becoming an administrative assistant,” she wrote. “No, they had other goals.”
One reason many employers are asking for college degrees now is the perception that high schools aren’t doing their jobs.
“Hiring managers feel that students with high school diplomas are not as educated as they should be and, are not capable of performing these jobs,” she explained. “They need the maturity and extra knowledge that a four year degree brings.”
On top of that, the nation is replete with college graduates unable to find jobs within their majors. Pressed by unimaginable student debt, they’ll take any job that opens up.
It’s important for us as parents, as educators and as a community to rethink education. Should every high school student be put on a college-bound track? Of course not.
Employers have a role to play here, too, by rethinking what the job requirements they publish.
Not every job should require a degree. Jobs should be filled by the best candidate.