Vector of a sad group of people fired from job due to business closure

College Gatekeeping is Leaving Talented People Out of the Economy

America has two different economies right now: one for college graduates, and one for everybody else. As a new report by Opportunity@Work shows, on average:

  • It takes 30 years of work experience for an adult without a college degree to catch up to the wage a bachelor’s degree holder earns on the first day of their career.
  • There are now 7.5 million jobs in the economy that used to be accessible to people without a college degree, but now require one.
  • In none of the 50 largest metro regions in the U.S. do people without college degrees earn equal pay for equal work when compared to bachelor’s degree holders. 

Given that 60% of Americans don’t have a college degree, this creates a serious problem for the economy. The pandemic has only heightened this disparity: companies are desperate for new employees, but won’t hire people who don’t have college degrees.  

Opportunity@Work’s report joins a host of earlier research showing, simply put, that this is unnecessary and bad for everyone. Workers don’t need a college degree to do many jobs well — they just need to be trained.

“It is now clear that such self-harming, exclusionary hiring practices were built on two falsehoods: that low wage equals low skill, and that bachelor’s degrees are the only gateway to job-relevant skills,” the report says. “Opportunity@Work analyzed the skills proximities of every job role to every other, finding that millions of (workers without degrees) have demonstrated skills for roles with at least 50% higher salaries than their current jobs.“

Other research backs them up.  

“The country as a whole will benefit from not stranding human capital,” Erica Groshen, an economist at Cornell University and a former head of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, told The New York Times

More and more companies are beginning to realize that workers with the right training or alternate credentials can do the jobs just as well as college graduates. Opportunith@Work calls them “STARS” – “Skilled Through Alternative Routes.” In today’s world, it’s not intelligence or talent that keeps millions of people out of college. The cost of college is a massive barrier, as is the time commitment required of people who need to work, care for their children, or support their families.  

Sometimes there just aren’t college seats available: California’s college system is currently turning away tens of thousands of qualified applicants because they just don’t have enough spots.

Keeping talented people out of the economy because they can’t afford college, or need to care for their kids, or have other life challenges is, is rampantly unfair and bad for business. Studies show that the more disenfranchised people who gain access to good jobs, the more the economy grows. The more people can get college credentials through alternative means, the better they do

That’s why Calbright College is free to all adult Californians with a high school diploma; that’s why we are an online college with classes that students can take from anywhere, anytime, on their own schedules. That’s why we train them to receive industry valued credentials, rather than degrees, that they can get in months or a year, rather than needing four years to get a bachelor’sbachelors degree. It’s why we help them focus on the careers they want, using the skills they have, and getting the credentials they need.

Because it works.  College  — and the economy — can be made more accessible to everyone.

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