The potential shift comes as Byron Auguste
, CEO of Opportunity@Work, and others argue
that privileging job applicants with four-year degrees excludes millions
of Americans from the middle class, and that this form of discrimination in particular hurts people of color.
At the same time, the college degree is receiving scrutiny for contributing to the racial wealth gap
, due to labor market returns that are skewed against Black
Yet examples of companies actually rolling back degree requirements remain spotty, PRish, and concentrated among tech giants like IBM
. Bottom line: if you want to make big bucks working for Apple
, Stanford or MIT are still your best bets.
New data from ZipRecruiter, however, suggested a potentially tectonic shift, one that could trigger a cascade of changes across higher education and society more broadly.
The AP reported
earlier this month that the percentage of jobs on the platform that required a bachelor’s degree fell to just 7 percent in June, having stood at 11 percent in January. The decline followed a drop from 15 percent in 2016.
Several pandemic-related effects could be skewing the ZipRecruiter numbers, as astute observers noted
. For example, unprecedented job market churn for jobs that don’t require degrees could overstate actual changes in hiring.
, a veteran of Inside Higher Ed
, dug into this phenomenon for Work Shift
. She cites Elise Gould
, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, who says lower-wage workers have been disproportionately hurt by the recession, particularly in leisure and hospitality.
“You’re going to see an uptick in job postings that don’t require a college degree simply because that is where the deficits lie,” Gould says.
Even so, a shift does appear to be occurring. Emsi Burning Glass was able to control for the hiring chaos in roles that typically don’t require a degree. The labor market data firm found a four-percentage-point decline this year in job listings with bachelor’s degree requirements.
The stakes are high. As Burke reported, 68 percent of U.S. adults lack a bachelor’s degree. That share is much higher for Black Americans (78 percent) and Latinos (84 percent). But a souring of public opinion on the degree could help motivate more Americans to skip college despite the sustained economic value
of the bachelor’s degree, which is the best way to reach the middle class and to ride out economic disruptions
So will it last? And will HR departments make good on hiring more workers without degrees?
Credentialism is a tide that will likely not be turned, Anthony Carnevale
, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce, tells Burke. He says dropping degree requirements typically adds costs to searches and can increase the risk of hires not working out.
“The reason they use credentials is it works,” said Carnevale.