by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
As the Chronicle [of Higher Education] notes, “to the company, a college degree matters mostly because it suggests that a candidate has acquired the right mix of skills to succeed in an entry-level job — and to move up the ladder from there.” Instead, the company simply takes a bachelor’s degree to signify that applicants can engage in some degree of critical thinking, problem solving, and juggling different responsibilities at the same time.
This is what economists such as Ohio University’s Richard Vedder and George Mason’s Bryan Caplan have been arguing for years: 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. 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.
The management at Enterprise are saying aloud what many employers know to be true. Bosses who require a college degree are taking advantage of a system that does the sorting for them. They understand that a bachelor’s degree is not really necessary for doing an entry-level job, and that whatever your educational background, you will require significant training to do well in that particular position.