The announcement in August that student loan borrowers would be receiving anywhere between ten and twenty thousand dollars of loan forgiveness from the federal government has reinvigorated the conversation: How much is a college degree actually worth in today’s labor market?

Collectively, borrowers in the US owe roughly $1.75 trillion dollars, and the cost of higher education continues to grow every single year by a rate of about 6.8%. According to an August report from the Education Data Initiative, the average cost of college per student, per year, is $35,551. 

In addition to the exorbitant cost of higher education, there is another issue that needs to be addressed, and that is how student debt varies across racial and socioeconomic lines. The Education Data Initivue found in another report from earlier this year that “Black and African American college graduates owe an average of $25,000 more in student loan debt than White college graduates.” 

Combine that with the fact that income inequality is still a major problem in the US, and it’s no surprise that the same study revealed that four years after graduation, 48% of Black borrowers owe an average of 12.5% more than they borrowed, whereas their white counterparts owed 12% less than what they borrowed. 

So, the question that’s on the minds of many young adults in the US right now is whether or not a college degree is worth going thousands of dollars into debt. On the other side of the issue, hiring managers are asking something similar—does it still make sense to require a college degree for most, if not all, open positions at their companies?

Well, hiring managers, the answer is this—probably not. Let us explain.

The “Any Degree Will Do” Hurdle

Obviously, there are some jobs in which a degree is undoubtedly necessary. Doctors have to possess a medical degree, and lawyers need to have gone to law school (or at least passed the Bar exam). These are important metrics that we use to determine whether or not someone is qualified to perform duties that can be life changing and/or life saving. 

But those are not the sorts of jobs we’re talking about here. In this article, we’re looking at mostly entry-level positions, and jobs which don’t require a specific degree, but do require any degree. 

The percentage of companies demanding a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions is declining. Still, it’s worth noting that many of the entry-level jobs that still require a four-year degree, do not specify what the degree needs to be in. When looking for entry-level positions, job hunters will often see, at the very top of the applicant requirements list, just two words—Bachelor’s Degree. 

No qualifier, no preferred majors. 

All that matters is that you went to school for something. This shouldn’t come as too big of a shock, considering that the majority of college grads do not work in their field of study. But it does beg the question, why is it necessary that you have a college degree, if what you studied in school is entirely irrelevant to the position you are applying for? 

What are employers really suggesting when they say you must have a college degree, but that any degree will do? The most generous answer would be they believe a college degree shows that a person is hard-working, organized, and perhaps able to multitask, which are all great skills to have in the workplace. 

A less generous explanation, however, and one that many people have been discussing recently, is that employers are looking to weed-out anyone who was unable to attend college. This requirement disproportionately affects low-income individuals who perhaps didn’t have the time or money to pursue higher education, but who still possess all the skills required to flourish in an entry-level position.

College Degree Requirements and DEI

As we’ve already discussed, the cost of college and the amount of debt students accrue in order to attend a four-year university, disproportionately affects people of color. But did you know that college degree requirements also play a role in the diversity of the workforce? 

Here are some statistics you should be aware of before deciding whether to have a degree requirement for your next job opening:

  • Almost two-thirds of American workers don’t possess a four-year college degree. 
  • Screening for a degree has been shown to eliminate 76% of black adults and 83% of Latino adults. 

Why Are Degree Requirements Still So Prevalent?

Despite all the negatives associated with having a degree requirement, there are still many companies who chose to keep these hurdles, regardless of how discriminatory they may be. 

But why?

The most likely explanation is that ditching the degree requirement leads to more work for hiring managers. Having this type of prerequisite helps cut down on some of the tediousness of the hiring process right out the gate—because it significantly reduces the amount of applications that need to be reviewed. Without it, hiring managers would have to sift through tens if not hundreds of more applications per job opening. 

Additionally, getting rid of a degree requirement would mean that those in charge of hiring needed to be trained professionals, not just someone who ticks off a few boxes before tossing applications in the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ pile. 

In a labor market like the one we’re currently in, it makes sense that hiring managers are looking for any way to expedite the process, but at what cost?

Rather than just slapping an arbitrary degree requirement onto every job posting, there’s a better way to make your hiring process more efficient. That is to seek out the experts. 

ATS over ABD (Any Bachelor’s Degree) 

Applicant tracking systems—they are one of the most effective ways for hiring managers to stay organized while sifting through hundreds of applications. Tracking systems like IsoConnect, can help match you with more diverse talent pools, schedule interviews, and provide you with access to IsoTalent’s EOR experts. 

We know that abandoning the degree requirement—which has been a staple prerequisite for many companies over the last decade or so—can be intimidating. It can mean taking on more work than you have the time or resources for. 

So let us help! We can be a little or a lot involved. IsoTalent is the industry's only full-service global recruitment solution, offering affordable and proven recruitment services and global hiring tools. We can help you cut down on costs, accelerate the hiring process, and cultivate a more efficient, innovative, and diverse workforce, with or without a degree requirement. 

Final Thoughts 

Cutting corners in the hiring process leads to cutting out many talented, skilled workers from diverse backgrounds. It’s time to dig a little deeper, to get to know each applicant more closely before deciding their fate. 

If you don’t have the time to make that kind of commitment to all your potential new hires, don’t worry—the recruitment experts at IsoTalent do. And if you don’t know where to start, remember, our applicant tracking system is free, and once you make an account, a recruiter or EOR expert is always just a click away.