Saturday, May 30, 2020

1889 Institute: excessive credentialing wastes talent, limits opportunity

Excessive Credentialing Wastes Talent, Limits Opportunity
By Byron Schlomach

We, as a society, think university-granted degrees are more valuable than they actually are. Consequently, college degrees are often demanded to qualify for a job when degrees are not necessary. A degree might even cause us to think someone is qualified when they are anything but.

While I was in graduate school, two tenured economics professors vehemently argued to me that United States silver coins had never actually consisted of the element, silver. Actually, prior to 1965, they were 90 percent silver. I’d already had doubts about the true value of an advanced degree, but that discussion put my doubts into overdrive.

Many state jobs require a college degree for one to be hired, but could be filled by individuals with relevant experience but who have no degree. The 1889 Institute identified several state agency openings that unnecessarily required college degrees. Organizational skills can be obtained in a number of ways without college. Many state information technology positions require college degrees, but IT experience and certifications produce well-qualified candidates.

We require teachers in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten to have bachelor’s degrees to be certified, even though mastery of the material should have happened by 5th grade. Shouldn’t a properly structured associate’s degree be enough?

Credential inflation is now ubiquitous. A Harvard study found two-thirds of production supervisor job postings demanded a college degree, but less than a fifth of those working in such positions have a degree. In the private sector, private individuals bear the costs of foolish hiring requirements. In the public sector, taxpayers involuntarily paying taxes are the ones who bear the costs.

Excessive credentialing requirements by the state are even more insidious with occupational licensing. Oklahoma is the only state requiring a science degree to become an electrologist (hair removal using electrodes). We effectively require a bachelor’s degree to be a funeral director. Most states do not license perfusionists, but we do, with the nearest place to get trained located in Houston.

The problem with credential inflation is not just the excessive costs for consumers or for taxpayers. It’s not just about higher education being paid to provide needless training.

It’s about opportunity. How many people with a natural ability and enthusiasm for styling hair can’t because of needless, costly education requirements? How many people with computer hobbies on which they’ve spent thousands of hours are prevented from getting IT jobs for lack of a college degree, even though they know more than a college degree confers?

The state should conduct a jobs audit to make sure excessive credentials are not being demanded for state jobs. It also needs a statute audit to make sure the state is not restricting opportunity in the private sector.

Byron Schlomach is 1889 Institute Director and can be contacted