Companies Should Abandon College Degree Requirements if They Really Want to Increase Diversity


While most parents were practically filling out their children’s college applications, my mom was trying to convince me that I didn’t need a fancy degree to start earning money.

“You want to be a writer — just start writing!” she would tell me. As a teenager, her advice only made my desire to attend college grow stronger. Much to my great disappointment, I can now say she was absolutely right.

There are things I love about college: The people I’ve met and the places it’s taken me around the world. But in terms of educational outcomes, I gained more knowledge in the first week of my internship than from the last four years of classes.

In my experience, college is no longer about passing tests, engaging in discourse, or even learning about a subject area. College is about regurgitating what professors want to hear and rubbing elbows with an elitist society of well-connected people who can offer you a job that you aren’t qualified for.

If I did it all over again, I probably would have skipped the whole thing and saved $200,000.

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Of course, there are some technical careers that do require higher education. I probably wouldn’t allow a self-taught doctor to operate on me, and I wouldn’t drive over a bridge built by a self-taught engineer. But I can confidently say I would hire a self-taught, independent journalist over one who has been corrupted by a homogenous batch of like-minded academics.

Businesses removing the requirement of a college degree would not only increase the diversity of the workforce but also attract free-thinking individuals who have talent and character, all while undercutting the overvalued and overpriced nature of those degrees.

It’s not the color of a person’s skin but the school on their degree that remains the most artificial barrier keeping them from entering the workforce.

Prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, many companies had a history of discriminating against women and people of color. After Title VII was enacted, society demanded that those companies reverse their discriminatory practices. The way many organizations decided to treat discrimination was by implementing diversity initiatives and imposing racial quotas in hiring practices.

Do you think more companies should reject the college degree requirement?

According to a report by Bloomberg last year, an increasing number of companies have adopted workforce quotas. Wells Fargo announced it would “increase black leadership” to 12 percent, Ralph Lauren pledged that 20 percent of its “global leaders” would be people of color, and Delta Airlines said it will double its percentage of black “officers and directors” by 2025.

Implementing racial quotas, however, fails to account for individuals who have faced adversity due to their financial circumstances. A Harvard graduate certainly has not faced the same challenges as a kid who grew up on the South Side of Chicago.

In a system that screens only for race, wealthy people of color will inevitably fill the spots, while individuals with fewer resources remain on the outside. Eliminating the necessity of college degrees would allow people who did not have the financial ability to afford school to enter the workforce.

According to a 2018 article in the Harvard Business Review, “Black men and women still represent a very low percentage of the professional white-collar workforce (less than 8%), given their overall representation in the population.”

The driving factor behind the underrepresentation of black Americans is seen in college graduation statistics. Among workers over age 25, Census Bureau data from 2019 show that while 40 percent of white adults hold at least a bachelor’s degree, only 26 percent of black adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

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If corporations hope to promote diversity and equal opportunity, they should work less on creating artificial racial compositions and turn focus to eliminating the barriers that keep people from employment.

Additionally, those without college degrees often have the skills and work ethic needed for higher-paying jobs, yet the positions are typically filled with those carrying collegiate pedigrees.

According to a report by the nonprofit Opportunity@Work, as many as 30 million U.S. workers without college diplomas have the skills necessary to earn 70 percent more. The report argues that employer education requirements are keeping these workers from attaining jobs they are qualified for.

Those who do not attend college have many other ways to gain skills through alternative routes. Some might enroll in tech bootcamps or community college programs. Others complete free workforce training, on-the-job skills building and military service. In this digital age, people can even use YouTube as a resource for education.

In the business world, nothing matters more than work ethic. According to Forbes, a growth mindset, continuous learning, survival skills and resilience are among the top skills recruiters are looking for in 2021.

The assumption that college graduates are more equipped in these areas simply does not hold up. My own observation is that college radicalizes students, leads them to shut down ideas that challenge their thinking and breeds mechanical memorizers. Those who carve their own path in life tend to take more responsibility for themselves and respect learning from others.

Finally, requiring a college education drives up the value of undergraduate degrees, which most students already agree are not worth the money or time.

Inside Higher Ed examined surveys that evaluated students’ college experiences post-pandemic. Roughly two-thirds agreed with the statement that “higher education is not worth the cost to students anymore.”

The burnout I’ve seen is astonishing. Students turn their cameras off and sleep through Zoom class. Those who go in person watch Netflix on their computers. Some professors are so desperate to engage students that they ask them to write daily reports on anything they learned. I don’t blame them.

With the average price of college sitting at $35,720 per year, students practically sell their souls for a degree. On average, it takes a student close to 20 years to pay off their loan debt. For some graduates, it can take more than 45 years. Those numbers don’t even take into consideration the other costs associated with college — everything from textbooks to housing.

The need for college is changing, and it’s time for companies to catch up with the times.

Corporations like Costco, Home Depot and Google have already rejected considering college degrees while screening candidates for employment opportunities. If more companies want to increase diversity, attract better talent and reject a system that drains millions of bank accounts, then it’s time for them to follow in their footsteps.

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.

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Miska Salemann is a student of journalism at Northeastern University. She has contributed to local papers including Seattle's Child and The Bay State Banner and is the founder of American Policy Examiner, a website that translates U.S policy to make it more accessible to the average American.