Phi Beta Cons

The College Degree Is the New High School Degree

A new report from the data analytics firm Burning Glass reveals that, increasingly, employers are viewing a college degree as a screening tool in the hiring process. As a result, professions that didn’t formerly place emphasis on postsecondary education now do. For example, while 20 percent of insurance clerks hold a bachelor’s degree, now 45 percent of insurance clerk job advertisements require one. 

One crucial reason for this shift is that, as the supply of college graduates has ballooned in recent years, employers have found that they can be much pickier during the hiring process, and especially during this rough economic period. 

Catherine Rampell, who analyzes the report in this opinion piece for the Washington Post, writes:

[College] grads are landing in positions that probably don’t use the skills they’ve piled up thousands of dollars in debt to acquire, and many high school grads and college dropouts are being shut out from the first rung of the career ladder altogether. The resulting damage to all these workers’ career trajectories could last for many years to come.

The Burning Glass report is important, but it will probably be ignored by politicians and higher education policymakers. Railing against degree inflation would contradict their claims, repeated ad nauseam, that college is a building block of the 21st century American Dream and something that should be pursued by all high school graduates. And as long as parents and counselors around the country continue to encourage millions of students to attend college without regard to its costs and benefits, we shouldn’t expect degree inflation to go away anytime soon.

Jesse SaffronJesse Saffron is a writer and editor for the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, a North Carolina-based think tank dedicated to improving higher education in the Tar ...

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