Governor Shapiro Continues to Lead the Nation on Eliminating College Degree Requirements, Garners Praise from Former President Barack Obama
March 20, 2023
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper Recently Announced New Steps to Eliminate Four-Year Degree Requirements for State Government Jobs, President Obama Calls Eliminating Degree Requirements “Smart Policy”
HARRISBURG, PA –Governor Josh Shapiro continues to lead the way on opening the doors of opportunity to more people and eliminating unnecessary college degree requirements to fill jobs. Last week, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced he would be eliminating four-year degree requirements for most state government jobs, joining Georgia’s state legislature and the Governor of Alaska after Governor Shapiro announced a similar policy on his first full day in office.
Governor Shapiro was one of the first governors to take action to remove degree requirements, along with the governors of Maryland, Colorado, and Utah, who have implemented similar policies. Recently, Vox praised the governors’ action on this issue in an article outlining why eliminating college degree requirements is the right thing to do.
Former President Barack Obama also lauded Governor Shapiro and the other leaders for implementing “smart policy,” and encouraged other states to follow suit.
Read more about how other states are following the Governor’s lead to eliminate barriers to employment below
Vox: Stop requiring college degrees for jobs that don’t need them
When President Joe Biden recently touted the hundreds of billions of dollars invested into American manufacturing in the last two years, he included a talking point that previous Democratic presidents might not have bragged about. New factories in Ohio, he said, could offer thousands of “jobs paying $130,000 a year, and many don’t require a college degree.”
When Biden highlighted those non-college jobs at the State of the Union, it was just three weeks after Pennsylvania’s new Democratic governor Josh Shapiro eliminated the requirement of a four-year college degree for the bulk of jobs in Pennsylvania state’s government, two months after Utah’s Republican governor Spencer Cox did the same, and nearly one year after Maryland’s Republican governor Larry Hogan set off the trend. Since the president’s State of the Union, Alaska’s Republican governor Mike Dunleavy has also followed suit.
Maryland’s newly elected Democratic governor, Wes Moore, plans to continue opening up state jobs to non-college-educated workers, confirmed his spokesperson.
For liberal politicians like Moore, Shapiro, and Biden, promoting policies to help the more than 70 million American workers who never graduated from college is rooted partly in politics, as Democrats have struggled recently to earn support from non-college-educated voters, especially men. After decades of prioritizing college attendance, the Democratic Party has been scrambling to figure out how to change the widespread perception that its leaders are out of touch with the struggles of average people.
But the announcements we’ve seen haven’t just come from Democrats looking to appeal to voters or just from elected officials. And they’re not even mere reactions to the heightened competition for workers, though that’s part of it.
The moves are the result of a concerted effort, backed by staggering research and a multi-million-dollar advertising campaign, to educate employers on broken hiring practices that have needlessly locked two-thirds of the workforce out of higher-paying American jobs. For decades, more and more job postings have reflexively required college degrees. Now it’s finally being recognized this was a mistake.
The hard work is starting to pay off. Earlier this year, the New York Times editorial board published a piece that praised the work of companies like IBM and governors like Josh Shapiro for expanding their hiring practices to include individuals without college diplomas. “Making college more affordable is important, but there are other keys to the doors of opportunity as well,” they wrote.
Last year, researchers from Harvard Business School and the Burning Glass Institute found evidence of what they called “an emerging degree reset” in hiring. By analyzing over 51 million job postings dating back to 2014, the researchers found that between 2017 and 2019 roughly 46 percent of “middle-skill” and 37 percent of “high-skill” occupations no longer asked for a bachelor’s degree, and instead had job postings listing technical and social skills instead. The report concluded that based on the trends they were observing, an additional 1.4 million jobs could open to workers without college degrees in the next five years.
“Jobs do not require four-year college degrees,” the report’s authors wrote. “Employers do.”
Getting more employers to rethink their degree requirements will take hard work. Rosenblum, of Grads of Life, said one of the biggest barriers is just changing mindsets. “Employers have grown up in a system where the four-year degree is the proxy and there’s a perception that it’s risky to do something different,” she said.
So far, there is no perfect, universal alternative assessment to identify the professional skills employers have previously relied on a Bachelor’s degree to signal. But Rosenblum and Ahmed from Opportunity@Work say there’s a lot of work happening right now to develop those tools, such as creating micro-credentials for individual industries. Software developers reflect a good example of an industry that has embraced new hiring practices, partly because employers have found other ways to verify the quality of someone’s coding skills, making college degrees less relevant. The challenge is finding out how to create comparable assessments for other fields.
Ahmed said there’s still a lot of work to do to get managers to realize that STARs are half of the talent pool. “Many just do not know, we’re all in our own cocoons,” he said.
New data released this month suggests employers are hiring at a slower rate, and economists still warn of a possible recession this year as inflation persists. Advocates for hiring workers without college degrees say it’s critical that employers don’t revert to the same flawed hiring proxies they adopted following the last big economic downturn.
“I do have frankly a lot of concern,” said Rosenblum. “We’re having a lot of change in our labor market, things are weakening, and we’re seeing companies doing hiring freezes and layoffs. We’re spending a lot of time talking with business leaders about the need to make sure we don’t go back to what happened in the 2008 recession.”