Has The Traditional 4-Year Degree Run It's Course?

Has The Traditional 4-Year Degree Run It's Course?

Andrew Chambers

February 6, 2024

On January 25, 2024, Governor Maura Healey of Massachusetts signed an executive order directing state agencies to institute skills-based hiring practices for the state’s workforce. The EO is exactly as it sounds - an order for government hiring managers to hire based on skills, knowledge, and abilities rather than on a traditional 4-year degree. A traditional degree is to be mandated only if it is “absolutely necessary to the performance of the posted position.”

Today, less than 2 weeks later, an analysis of the state of Massachusetts career’s website finds that only 7% of available jobs mandate a traditional 4-year Bachelor’s as a minimum educational requirement. That’s right. The executive order directing that degrees only be mandated where absolutely necessary eliminated over 90% of degree requirements!

In a statement released at the time of the signing, the governor said, “"As the state’s largest employer, we rely on a strong, diverse workforce to deliver crucial services and programs for Massachusetts residents, businesses and communities every day. But too many job applicants are being held back by unnecessary degree requirements," Healey said. "This Executive Order directs our administration to focus on applicants’ skills and experiences, rather than college credentials. It will expand our applicant pool and help us build a more inclusive and skilled workforce than ever before. Our administration is leading by example, and we encourage the business community to join us by adopting similar skills-based hiring practices."

Translation: the labor market is tight and has more needs than ever before, and there are TONS of qualified people out there that can do the job. We’re not going to let whether they have a 4-year degree or not hold them back, and the business community should get on board.

And if you really read between the lines, the fact that 93% of degree requirements were eliminated with this executive order should speak volumes. Essentially, the state of Massachusetts is recognizing that the traditional 4 year is not (and has not been) necessary to succeed in over 90% of jobs. It’s just now doing something about it.

Although the governor encouraged the business community to follow Massachusetts' lead, everyone knows that the government is usually following cultural trends, and this case is no different. Walmart, IBM, Accenture, Google, Bank of America, and Tesla are just a few of the massive employers that have announced plans to reduce the number of jobs with degree requirements at the corporate level, choosing instead to focus on skills and experience and do away with “unnecessary barriers” to career advancement. 

The Harvard connected Burning Glass Institute in a study reported that “Between 2017 and 2019 [alone], 46% of "middle-skill occupations" and 31%  of "high-skill occupations" saw a drop in college degree requirements which ‘could have major implications for how employers find talent and open up opportunities for the two-thirds of Americans without a college education,’. In line with the trend, the report projected the move could open up 1.4 million jobs for American workers without college degrees over the next five years.

What does all this mean? 

It’s simple and obvious. The traditional 4 year university is losing its place as the gatekeeper to the American dream, and even government institutions are beginning to recognize as much.

Employers are realizing that hiring based on skills and experience is much more important than hiring based on a box checked on a resume.

That’s why, at Excel College, we’re disrupting higher education by providing students with an opportunity to become wise, mature, and productive adults - developing a solid biblical worldview and a stellar resume while doing it. Our students graduate with 15 months of relevant certifications and work experience - not just a piece of paper. 

All the while, they are developing the soft skills that employers were counting on the traditional 4-year degree program to develop the whole time. But that’s the subject of our next post. 

This post was crafted based off a story originally reported on Fox News. You can read it here: https://www.foxbusiness.com/politics/massachusetts-focuses-skills-based-hiring-eliminates-college-degree-requirements-about-90-jobs

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