ICYMI: The New York Times’ Editorial Board Praises Governor Josh Shapiro’s Executive Order Eliminating College Degree Requirements for State Government Jobs
January 30, 2023
“This demonstrates both good policy and good leadership, representing a concrete change in hiring philosophy that stops reducing people to a credential and conveys that everyone — college-educated or not — has experience and worth that employers should consider.”
HARRISBURG, PA – After Governor Josh Shapiro signed an executive order on his first full day in office announcing that 65,000 Commonwealth jobs don’t require a four-year college degree, The New York Times’ Editorial Board praised Governor Shapiro’s move as a critical step in opening the doors of opportunity and expanding our workforce.
The editorial board noted how eliminating college degree requirements for certain jobs has galvanized bipartisan support and “would bring a greater degree of openness and fairness into the labor market and send a message about government’s ability to adapt and respond to the concerns of its citizens” in the modern labor market.
In addition to signing the executive order, Governor Shapiro also instructed all state agencies to emphasize work experience and skills in their job posting and hiring processes and launched a new website for applicants to easily apply for positions that don’t require a four-year degree.
Read The New York Times’ editorial here and excerpts below.
In one of the richest nations on earth, the path to prosperity has narrowed significantly in recent decades — especially for those without a college education. More than 62 percent of Americans ages 25 and up do not hold bachelor’s degrees, and the earnings gap between those with a college education and those without one has never been wider. […]
Making college more affordable is important, but there are other keys to the doors of opportunity as well. With an executive order issued on Jan. 18, his first full day as governor, Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania used one of them: He eliminated the requirement of a four-year college degree for the vast majority of jobs in the state government, a change similar to one that Maryland and Utah made last year. This demonstrates both good policy and good leadership, representing a concrete change in hiring philosophy that stops reducing people to a credential and conveys that everyone — college-educated or not — has experience and worth that employers should consider. It is a step — and a mind-set — that other leaders should consider as well. […]
As Mr. Shapiro’s order notes, “In the modern labor market, applicants gain knowledge, skills and abilities through a variety of means, including apprenticeships, on-the-job training, military training and trade schools.”
His move opens up 92 percent of state government jobs — approximately 65,000 positions — to anyone with “the relevant work experience and skills-based training, regardless of their educational attainment.” Job postings will emphasize experience over education. […]
If the United States can’t find ways to tap into all of this talent, we will not be able to solve our most urgent problems, like climate change and pandemic preparedness, or build a stronger and fairer country. Too many Americans see our society and economy as profoundly unfair, set up to serve the needs of well-connected elites and providing more benefits to people who went to college or know how to work the system. And too many feel that political leaders don’t care about them and that government and institutions don’t work for them. Opening up jobs may seem small-bore, but it shows that government is listening and helps build trust among those who may feel unseen or looked down upon by parts of the labor market. […]
Over the last few years, this degree inflation has begun to recede. If this “degree reset” continues, an additional 1.4 million jobs would be opened to workers without college degrees over the next five years.
This could also help make the American work force more diverse and inclusive in several ways. Black and Hispanic job-seekers are less likely to have bachelor’s degrees than non-Hispanic whites and Asian Americans. Rural Americans would also benefit; only 25 percent of them hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. “No part of the country is more disadvantaged by degree screening than rural America,” Mr. Auguste said. […]
Getting more states on board could provide a valuable boost; state governments are among the largest employers in many states, so their hiring criteria play a special role in validating workers without college degrees. Last March, Larry Hogan of Maryland became the first governor to announce that his state was doing away with college degree requirements for many jobs. In December, his fellow Republican, Spencer Cox of Utah, followed suit. “Degrees have become a blanketed barrier to entry in too many jobs,” Mr. Cox said. “Instead of focusing on demonstrated competence, the focus too often has been on a piece of paper.”
With Mr. Shapiro, a Democrat, weighing in for Pennsylvania, the nation’s fifth most populous state, the movement’s bipartisan credentials have been burnished. It is a move that Americans in every state should actively encourage.
Expanding the terms for who can get hired is a change that would reverberate far beyond individual jobs and job seekers. It would bring a greater degree of openness and fairness into the labor market and send a message about government’s ability to adapt and respond to the concerns of its citizens. In a country where a majority of people do not have bachelor’s degrees, policies that automatically close off jobs to so many people contribute to the perception that the system is rigged against them.
A healthy democracy recognizes and promotes opportunity for everyone. Americans need to hear that message.