Degree Inflation: It Takes A BA To Be A File Clerk

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“The college degree is becoming the new high school diploma,” writes Catherine Rampell in the New York Times, “the new minimum requirement, albeit an expensive one, for getting even the lowest-level job.”

Economists have referred to this phenomenon as “degree inflation,” and it has been steadily infiltrating America’s job market. Across industries and geographic areas, many other jobs that didn’t used to require a diploma — positions like dental hygienists, cargo agents, clerks and claims adjusters — are increasingly requiring one, according to Burning Glass, a company that analyzes job ads from more than 20,000 online sources, including major job boards and small- to midsize-employer sites.

This up-credentialing is pushing the less educated even further down the food chain, and it helps explain why the unemployment rate for workers with no more than a high school diploma is more than twice that for workers with a bachelor’s degree: 8.1 percent versus 3.7 percent.

Some jobs, like those in supply chain management and logistics, have become more technical, and so require more advanced skills today than they did in the past. But more broadly, because so many people are going to college now, those who do not graduate are often assumed to be unambitious or less capable.

Some observers might be tempted to argue that this “up-credentialing” is a positive thing. Who can be against a more thoroughly-educated work force?

The problem, of course, is that requiring entry-level workers to invest tens of thousands of dollars and years of time into degrees qualifying them for entry-level jobs is hardly a positive development for our economy. Higher education policy has all but turned student loans into an entitlement, and the end result is an oversupply of college-educated workers in the job market.

To the point where jobs which shouldn’t require a college degree are not requiring it. Because why not? Everyone has one anyway.

Which speaks volumes about the diluted value of higher education in general. These days higher education isn’t helping some students find jobs. In some ways it’s acting as a barrier to getting jobs.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • avengingspirit

    Four year colleges and universities are the biggest racket going today. The more people buy into this degree inflation garbage, the more they’ll continue to push it. Every healthcare profession is trying raise its status to be more doctor-like. With doctorates required to now enter professions such as physical therapy and pharmacy, previous five year programs are now fluffed up with meaningless coursework such as extra art courses to pad tuition bills and make graduates think they are more qualified than their predecessors with master’s degrees.

    The big winners here are the schools. They don’t call it the guaranteed student loan program for nothing. The schools are guaranteed the government loan money and the student is guaranteed a mountain of debt.

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