Phi Beta Cons

Combating Credential Inflation

The number of entry-level jobs now requiring applicants to have college degrees has increased significantly in recent years. Degree-holders have flooded the labor market, allowing hiring managers to be much more selective for jobs that only require the skills and knowledge of a high school graduate. This has led to massive underemployment for recent college grads. It also has prevented many poor and low-income individuals, who may lack resources to obtain advanced credentials, from being employed in decent-paying jobs.

So, what should be done? Instapundit blogger and USA Today columnist Glenn Harlan Reynolds recently called for “banning the college box” on employment applications, thereby prohibiting employers from asking an applicant about his or her college education in the same way that some jurisdictions now prohibit questions about an applicant’s criminal history. Reynolds believes that would increase social mobility by putting less emphasis on college credentials.

George Leef, in this week’s Pope Center Clarion Call, says he agrees with the goal of increasing social mobility, but thinks that adding yet another employment regulation is the wrong way to achieve it. Instead, says Leef, Congress should overhaul the Civil Rights Act so that employers can use aptitude tests (rather than always relying on college degrees) to screen applicants without fear of being sued for discrimination or for creating a “disparate impact” on minority groups.

But the benefits of freeing the labor market could also benefit serious students interested in learning for learning’s sake. “Many students who aren’t serious about advanced learning but only want a credential to get by the degree screening would do something other than enroll in college right after high school. Without them, schools could and would do a better job for those students who really want higher education,” writes Leef.

Read the full article here.

Jesse Saffron — Jesse 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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