For decades it has been generally accepted knowledge that one of the reasons for attending college is to make oneself more professionally marketable; one of the most common tropes surrounding higher education is that one must attend it in order to “get a good job.” But what if that’s not necessary?
Many employers “understand that a bachelor’s degree is not really necessary for doing an entry-level job,” write James Piereson and Naomi Schaefer Riley at National Review. The problem, they note, is that a bachelor’s degree signifies to many employers that an applicant is at least marginally qualified for such positions. Really determining who is eligible for these jobs “is more time-consuming than just looking at a résumé and seeing a bachelor’s degree.”
“College degrees are simply a signifier — an easy way of telling an employer that you have a basic grasp of the English language, some rudimentary math skills, and the ability to show up on time in clean clothes,” the authors write:
On those measures, is a graduate of the University of Michigan any different from a graduate of Michigan State or Northern Michigan University? Not really. Does a 3.8 GPA predict that you will do better or worse at managing a car-rental office than someone with a 2.8 GPA? Probably not. Does majoring in business predict that you will do a better job than an English major or a sociology major or a physics major? It’s unlikely.
Nevertheless, going to even a cheaper state school can still be enormously expensive for students, not to mention time-consuming. “There are easier and cheaper ways to sort people. High schools could do more to teach the basic responsibility and functioning skills that they used to,” the authors write.
They also note that “a one- or two-year apprenticeship in any number of fields after high school could show the same evidence of critical thinking and responsibility” that is usually conferred by a college degree.