College Degrees Continue To Lose Their Luster
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal caught my attention. It described laws enacted in 10 states during the past year to do away with the requirement of a college degree for government jobs. Georgia, Florida, Colorado, Maryland, New Jersey, North Caroline, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Utah and Virginia now are able to fill state jobs based on requisite skills rather than making sure job seekers have a college degree. Prior to these actions, even military veterans used to working with multi-million dollar equipment or in charge of decision-making with lives at stake couldn’t work for the state unless they had a college degree. Note that the states mentioned include both left- and right-leaning political leadership.
These recent edicts have nothing to do with the trades directly, but they illustrate a trend toward devaluation of college degrees. There are various reasons why this is occurring.
First, is a labor shortage for numerous types of jobs, of which the skilled trades are at or near the top of the list.
Also, colleges are spewing out so many degrees that an estimated 40% of graduates end up in jobs that don’t require one. Or, like the requirement done away with in the states just mentioned, employers often require one where they are not really necessary.
Another reason is that college graduates aren’t necessarily smart people. Many college courses and degree programs have been dumbed down over the years and grade inflation runs rampant. Many of today’s college graduates don’t read, write and do arithmetic as well as high school grads of prior generations.
A related article appeared in the Wall Street Journal of last April 1 (no fooling). It reported a survey finding that 56% of Americans think a four-year degree is not worth the expense, with skepticism highest among respondents in the 18-34 age group that encompasses college students and recent graduates. By comparison, as recently as 2013 a similar survey found 53% of Americans saying a four-year degree would be worthwhile, i.e., leading to better jobs and higher pay.
While college loses its luster, the trades are shining brighter.