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Do You Really Need to Hire a College Grad?

Based on the volume of internet chatter lately, there's a lot of concern about college. Catalyzed by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel's assertion that college tuition is the next bubble, as well as mounting concerns about student debt and the affordability (and usefulness) of a lot of college degrees, many commentators are asking whether colleges are failing to adequately serve students and prepare them for the realities of work today.

But the calls for educators, students and parents to re-evaluate their assumptions about education, ignore one big group who are supporting the status quo when it comes to college -- employers. Evidence may be mounting that today's students are learning less and paying a great deal more than in the past, but if a college degree is still the minimum requirement to be considered by a vast majority of employers, can you really blame young people for continuing to plunk down thousands upon thousands of dollars to get a degree?

So, is it time for organizations to take a long, hard look at their role in the college arms race? Writing on recruiting blog Fistful of Talent, HR pro Tim Sackett argues yes, saying that while in the current job market he would insist his own kids go to college, it's worth considering whether all the jobs that currently require a college degree, really do. He writes (the links are mine):

Does your Manager of Client Services really need a degree? (or your IT Analyst, Benefits Administrator, Accounts Payable Manager, etc.) It's hard to find a job description in today's world that doesn't require a bachelors degree. I could argue we all would be much better off taking these kids straight out of high school and spending four years training them ourselves in the functions we need. I bet those people would be much more valuable to your organization after four years than a new grad fresh out college!
It's an interesting question to contemplate as an HR Pro. I tend to justify my need to hire college grads because I think the ability to go through a four or five year program, finish and get a good GPA shows me a number of things about a person's ability to finish, stay with something long-term and proves basic book smarts. But, I also believe the type of degree the person holds has very little to do with the success of being a recruiter in my environment. I've had English grads outperform business grads, and sociology grads outperform human resource grads. Personality tends to be a bigger factor than almost anything else.
Do you believe you really need all those college grads for your company? Hire a GED this week and run your own test.
What do you think, are employers partly culpable in sending kids into expensive higher education when some could probably do just fine without it? Should fewer jobs require a four-year degree?

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(Image courtesy of Flickr user Tulane Public Relations, CC 2.0)
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