Hey, Your College Degree is Blocking My View.

Hey, Your College Degree is Blocking My View.

First of all, before I get too far, I would like to say congratulations to you on your college degree. I'm proud of you for preparing for, applying to, getting accepted, attending, and completing – college. Your degree is definitely worthy of space on your wall and I think you should definitely get it framed nicely. And please check for a stud in the wall, because that thing is substantial. When you applied for a job, and presented your resume to me not long ago (which for some reason you provided in an editable Microsoft Word Document format rather than a PDF) I was very impressed with your degree and the fact that you majored in a really great subject and graduated 'magna something loud'.

Quite some time ago I was on the job hunt as well. I had a different experience than you did. I applied for a job and had to say that I was able to acquire a G.E.D., which is a degree from a high school equivalency program that the state provides to people who don't complete high school the traditional route.  I took notice of the requirements in the job post I applied for, and the very first bullet point in the requirements said "Bachelor’s degree is required. Marketing, advertising, or business degree preferred." Of course, I didn't have one of those, but I applied anyway, thinking that perhaps because I meet all the other criteria perfectly, I may be able to earn an interview and have a conversation with the hiring manager. I figured I could discuss my skills and demonstrate how I can be a great fit for the position. The only requirement I lacked is the one that won't have an effect on my ability to do the job.

I did not get an interview.

It's okay that I was not called back. I realize that when you have several candidates and one, submitting a PDF about their accomplishments and proven work ethic may not be as qualified as the other who is able to present a shiny degree from a private college, and some kind of experience in academic sports.

I'm okay with all of this now because since then I have been able to find steady work by creating my own job.

Since I was not able to get an interview because of my lack of a degree, in order to gain experience, I went ahead and started my own company. I hustled to get clients and eventually was able to hire several of candidates with degrees to expand my practice. Ironically, in many (but not all) cases, I trained the college graduates on how to do the work they had a degree in. Some of them were great at it, and some of them were not. Among some of the best people I have ever hired, were two people who did not have any degree. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that so I was not able to hold that against them. I simply judged them by their performance.

College and Job Preparedness

I've hired many people for skilled, white collar office work. When hiring for a position where experience is required, candidates almost invariably have college degrees, with the few exceptions I alluded to above. It would actually be a feat to find a candidate without a degree in my line of work. In your case, if for any reason I passed on your resume, I just want to make it clear that it was not because you had the wrong major or anything else about your education credentials. It was because you submitted your resume in the form of a Word document, and I was worried that my training program would not be enough to teach you the basics of sending final documents to people that you interact with in a business setting.

College has become vital for anyone that is going to succeed in life. According to Indeed, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the income of the average college grad is about $60,996, while that of a high school graduate is only $37,024. If someone takes some college classes but does not get a bachelor's degree, they will at least earn a few percent more at an average of $40,248. For some, this might seem like a strong and clear case for going to college. In one-dimensional thinking, it probably is. But we don't live in a one-dimensional world. There is a lot more to consider when it comes to life decisions than how much money you make living them out, and we need to look at those factors because as you may know, it costs money and time to go to college, and not going is mostly free. Let's take a look.

The Cost of College

The average cost of going to college is about $26,820 per year for in-state students at public colleges (this is low compared to an even saltier $54,880 for a private college). This is not tuition alone, as that would not account for the true cost of going to college. This includes tuition, room and board, books, supplies, and other expenses. That means that over the course of a four-year degree, the average student will spend about $107,280 to acquire their lucrative degree at a public in-state college. While tuition is only $10,560 of that average yearly total, there are certainly more costs involved even for a frugal attendee who is living at home and biking to class, not to mention the opportunity cost of not being able to work at full capacity for four years.

The Cost of Not Being Lucky

Since most people get their qualifications for their work through on the job work experience, you might say that the six figure investment of college is simply the cost of admission to an interview, and having a chance in hell at landing on the short list of candidates. This brings us to the bigger cost of college. The cost imposed upon those who were not lucky enough to have the means to get into college. The cost of not being able to earn as much as their educated counterparts for the rest of their life.

For most middle and upper income families, college is a given, thanks to government lending programs making it easier to get access to some form of higher learning. But for the unlucky, even if you can get a loan, that does not mean you can afford to cover all the costs of the college years while having limited capacity to work in the process. It doesn't guarantee admission either.

While need based scholarships may open up doors for someone who would not be able to acquire a loan based on the ability to pay, the higher likelihood of a lower GPA may be an obstacle. In a study published by The Fordham Institute, it found that affluent students are more likely to have their grades inflated while the less affluent students endure more scrutiny. This is in addition to the uneven playing field to begin with. As explained in a US News Article by Lauren Camera, students from affluent families "have major advantages when it comes to K-12 education: Among them, better teachers, more access to advanced or specialized courses, resources for counselors, and a variety of extracurricular activities, which when combined can lead to higher high school graduation and college-going rates than their poorer peers." This phenomenon ensures that fewer poor people will go to college, and further, ensures lower incomes by removing one key factor from someone's ability to be considered for even an entry-level position.

The bachelor's degree is effectively a guarantee that we keep our businesses filled with pedigree, ensuring the poor stay poor. College requirement becomes a barrier, preventing otherwise capable people from getting a job that allows them to improve their socioeconomic status.

The Cost to Society

Imagine if the only thing between you and a better life is one bullet point "Bachelors Degree Required", It's only one hundred grand, and four years of hard work. In spite of the fact that it does not ready you for the position. What does this say about employers and job posts? Or perhaps our society at large. The Harvard Business Review points out that "College degrees are also confounded with social class and play a part in reducing social mobility and augmenting inequality." What that means is that requiring college, even for jobs where the degree is not relevant, is an investment in restricting people to a social class. It's proactively segregating society while reducing the candidate pool. It makes sense that surgeons should not be operating without significant training. But what about a digital media manager, or a customer service representative? College is not preparing them for this job anyway.

The outcome of low-wage earners has a real cost on the economy, to the tune of about 4% of GDP. Specifically, costs come in the form of reduced economic productivity, increased public healthcare costs, and increased crime. This doesn't even begin to address issues of diversity, and how that can benefit society. So when you are done hanging your degree on the wall – can we talk about how we write job posts?