“Obstacles to employment stifle economic opportunity and impede social mobility. That’s why more than two dozen states now ban public employers from inquiring about applicants’ criminal history, given concerns that capable job candidates will be turned away or deterred. In occupational licensing, a bipartisan array of reformers have taken on costly, unnecessary barriers that restrict entry to quotidian positions such as masseuse, nail technician, and florist.
Democrats and Republicans alike are seeking avenues to open the doors of opportunity to those who’ve been locked out. That’s why it is so bizarre to see that the biggest and most significant barrier to employment in American life has remained remarkably unchallenged. That barrier? The use of the college degree as a default hiring device. Indeed, degree requirements are ubiquitous, even as employers express skepticism that colleges are preparing graduates for work. Indeed, researchers at the Harvard Business School reported in 2017 that nearly two-thirds of employers admit to rejecting applicants simply for lacking a college degree—even when otherwise qualified for the job.
Burning Glass Technologies reported in 2014 that employers increasingly require new hires to have bachelor’s degrees for positions where current workers don’t have one and where the requisite skills haven’t changed. Employers do this even though the researchers found that college graduates filling middle-skill positions cost more to employ, have higher turnover rates, tend to be less engaged, and are no more productive than high-school graduates doing the same job.”