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As states drop degree requirements, does a 4-year diploma’s value change?

As states drop degree requirements, does a 4-year diploma’s value change?

Higher Ed Dive

Danielle McLean
February 8, 2024
In March 2022, then-Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan unveiled a “first-in-the-nation” program rolling back degree requirements for thousands of government jobs.
The move was part of an effort to fill a large number of position vacancies. Since then, at least 19 other states have followed suit, either by approving policies to evaluate whether degree requirements should be removed or by nixing them altogether.
Policymakers expect for these moves to help fill state government vacancies by providing new job opportunities for workers who didn’t attend four years of college.
They could also act as signals to private sector employers, encouraging them to not only rely on four-year degrees, but also look at other measures of skills, Tameshia Bridges Mansfield, vice president of workforce and regional economies at the Jobs for the Future, said in an email.
That opens the door for jobs and advancement to more people, Bridges Mansfield said. However, even though these policies prop up workers without degrees, some experts say the changes won’t lessen the importance of a college diploma, which will continue to factor into hiring decisions and pay rates.
Employers will likely continue to strongly value degrees when they’re hiring, regardless of what state or private employers list in job descriptions, Ben Wildavsky, a higher education expert and visiting scholar at the University of Virginia, said in an email.
“Higher education certainly isn’t perfect, but we have a lot of reason to believe that degrees command a wage premium because graduates develop a range of broad and targeted skills that are really useful for developing strong careers,” he said.
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