Many Companies Say They're Dropping College Degree Requirements From Hiring — Why It Likely Won't Change Anything

You can't change structural and organizational bias by simply changing the verbiage of a job description.

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For years now, the value of a college degree has been declining amid constantly rising tuition costs, staggering student debt, and ever more cutthroat job markets.

Now, a change seems to be underway among many corporations that shows a potentially promising shift for young people. But will it actually change things for the better?

Many companies are dropping college degree requirements when hiring, according to a recent survey.

A November 2023 survey of corporate leaders by college-ranking organization found a striking new trend — 45% of respondents said they plan to stop requiring a bachelor's degree for certain positions beginning in 2024.


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It shows an escalation of a major trend that emerged throughout 2023 in which scores of companies, including Fortune 500 firms like Delta Airlines, Google, and Bank of America, made real moves away from degree requirements. 


Companies are dropping college requirements in favor of a more fair 'skills-based' approach to hiring. 

The move among these employers is meant to address labor shortages exacerbated by the way scores of talented workers are totally shut out of the job market by degree requirements for even the most basic of entry-level positions. found that 70% of the companies surveyed said creating a more diverse workforce was their main motivation for dropping degree requirements from many entry and mid-level positions, and 80% said they value experience over education.



"Due to the expense of attending college, earning a bachelor’s degree is generally more difficult for people from traditionally marginalized groups and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds,” Ithaca College professor and higher education advisor, Diane Gayeski, said. 


Instead, companies are shifting towards skills assessments in hiring, and giving equal value to non-degree credentials like certificate programs like coding bootcamp certifications, for example.

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Many are skeptical that these shifts will actually change the hiring process, however, due to structural biases among leaders and within company cultures.

To be sure, these companies are making the right move. A huge proportion of workers end up in a field that has nothing to do with their degree anyway. According to a landmark 2010 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, just 27% of professionals work in their degree field.

That just underlines the brokenness of this system. It reduces the value of degrees that people plummet into debt to achieve, to little more than an admissions ticket to a job interview, not an actual skillset. That is absurd.


More importantly, it's also an unconscionably exclusionary system that magnifies class, race, and gender-based discrimination and marginalization.

But here's the thing: The bias toward degree credentials is inherent to every aspect of the hiring process, including the leaders and decision-makers using it. Dropping degree requirements does little to rectify that or to shift company culture.



As Blair Corcoran de Castillo, senior director at Opportunity@Work, told Quartz last year, "Just removing a degree requirement in a job description doesn’t make it go to [someone without a degree]."


Leaders can simply select candidates with degrees anyway if they are of the mind that such gatekeeping is valuable, after all. A vast majority of recruiting professionals say they find it much more difficult to evaluate candidates without degrees, as well.

And of course, there are also long-held biases within workforces to contend with. Many professionals feel that if they had to go through the wringer of attaining prestigious university credentials, new workers should have to "pay their dues" too.

Anyone who's sat in on hiring discussions where the relative prestige of two equally qualified candidates' degrees was used as a tie-breaker knows all too well how all these dynamics tend to play out. They won't just disappear because a corporation changes its requirements.


Companies dropping college degree requirements is certainly a place to start, and it's an encouraging shift towards a more equitable playing field in the job market.

But it's merely lip service unless actual decision makers — who are disproportionately from extremely privileged backgrounds — adopt this philosophical shift towards skills rather than credentials, too. Here's hoping they do.

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice, and human interest topics.