COMMENTARY | If young people ever needed a reason to stay in school, a new survey by CareerBuilder.com just delivered one! According to CBS, some 27 percent of employers have increased the required level of education for new hires within the past five years, further cementing the conventional wisdom that a bachelor’s degree is the new high school diploma (meaning it is the expected baseline for a “decent job”). And, says the survey, employers have largely been pleased with the change, finding it increases work performance and even revenue.
So, like it or not, most young people will soon have to pursue at least some form of higher education to have any hope of earning a living wage.
While this is good news for the education sector, it is important to determine who pays the burden of these education costs. For example, though one-third of the hiring managers surveyed said they had sent workers back to school to receive more advanced degrees, nineteen percent of hiring managers said they did not contribute toward the cost of such educational attainment. This means that those employees had to shoulder the tuition cost themselves.
Of the eighty-one percent of hiring managers who said they paid, or would pay, at least part of the cost for employees receiving advanced degrees, how much tuition was still paid by the employee? Were sufficient pay raises guaranteed for after the degrees to effectively offset the costs of their attainment? Were employees merely encouraged to pursue advanced education as a way to advance their careers…or were they demanded to get a more advanced degree or risk termination or demotion?
The requirement of continuing education can be coercive. Many rank-and-file employees cannot afford to continually seek increasingly advanced degrees, lacking both the time and funding to spend their evenings in the classroom after pulling a full shift at work. And pitting existing workers against new hires in terms of educational attainment is often unfair: Colleges and universities can have admissions policies and course schedules that force nontraditional students to jump through far more hoops, making it considerably harder to go back to school than try to complete it in one go.
Employers, don’t force workers into an educational arms race and perpetuate the runaway growth of higher education. You are only hurting workers and, eventually, yourselves.
Grade inflation, the unpleasant result of our national obsession with putting everyone through college, will continue to erode the value of a degree, eventually meaning that the bachelor’s degree of your latest hire only indicates the ability to attend class sporadically. And then, disgusted with the quality of new BAs on your work force, you will insist that all new hires need a Master’s degree. Colleges and universities will trumpet this new demand for Master’s graduates and ask for state funding. Taxes will subsequently rise, including on your business. Graduate schools will admit thousands of new applicants.
Over the years graduate school standards will erode, grade inflation will become rampant, and you will grow dissatisfied with the quality of the new MA’s on your work force. Now you will insist on Ph.D.s for your new hires. Colleges and universities will trumpet this new demand for Ph.D. graduates and ask for state funding. Again, your taxes increase as Ph.D. programs admit thousands of new applicants.
See the problem?
You’re not necessarily getting much better workers and, at the same time, people are running themselves ragged trying to keep up with the education race. Tax rates are soaring as everyone tries to get advanced degrees at public universities, student loan debt increases exponentially, and nobody is happy.