State governments drop four-year degree requirements, follows trend

'Utah will no longer require a bachelor’s degree for most state jobs.'

'[A] degree should not be the only way to get a good paying job or have a fulfilling career,' Governor Cox’s press release concluded.

Campus Reform Higher Education Fellow Nicholas Giordano has been making headlines discussing how companies are ditching the four-year degree requirement. 

Earlier this month, he appeared on "Wilkow!," where he said “[d]egrees used to be a ‘golden ticket’ into corporate America, ‘but then the businesses and the companies realized that the students are not coming in prepared for our workforce.” 

Among those companies dropping the four-year degree requirement are those in the tech industry such as Dell Technologies, according to CNBC

Now, however, it’s not just companies adopting this approach. 

As Higher Ed Dive recently reported, “Utah will no longer require a bachelor’s degree for most state jobs.”

Emma Williams, Public Information Officer at the Office of Utah Governor Spencer J. Cox, provided Campus Reform the Governor's press release regarding the state's initiative.

“Degrees have become a blanketed barrier-to-entry in too many jobs,” Governor Cox said in the press release. “Instead of focusing on demonstrated competence, the focus too often has been on a piece of paper. We are changing that.”

Governor Cox said “that eliminating bachelor’s degree requirements will broaden access to qualified talent and expand employment opportunities to attract diverse candidates, including underrepresented groups,” according to the press release.

[RELATED: PROF. GIORDANO: Community college is a better, more viable alternative for many students]

Utah follows in the footsteps of Maryland, whose Governor, Larry Hogan, announced in March “the launch of a multi-pronged, first-in-the-nation workforce development initiative to formally eliminate the four-year college degree requirement from thousands of state jobs.”

“Spearheaded by the Maryland Department of Labor and the Maryland Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the state will work with partners to recruit and market these roles to job seekers who are “Skilled Through Alternative Routes” (STARs),” a press release about the initiative reads. 

CNBC covered this trend, arguing that the push to drop four-year degree requirements is due to “[t]he Covid-19 pandemic labor shortage.” 

Campus Reform has found, however, that the larger reason for states and companies ditching the requirement is that they have found college graduates to be unreliable workers. 

Rather than prioritizing education that prepares students for the workforce, universities have instead both lowered educational standards and trained students to be political activists. 

As discussed during Giordano’s appearance on Wilko, students are more concerned with diversity, equity, and inclusion than they are with sales and making profits. 

Additionally, education standards have been lowered to such degrees that the vast majority of college students cannot pass an exam asking basic questions about the American government, as Campus Reform reported in September. 

The downward trend of academic standards has been well-documented for years. 

For example, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) reported “on the results of a multiple-choice exam distributed to college students between 2006 and 2007 at 50 schools nationwide,” which asked basic questions about American civic life and government. 

“The ‘average freshman scored 51.7%.’  And when tested a second time a year later, those same students performed worse, dropping 0.3 percentage points,” as reported by Campus Reform in October. 

Despite this, students today are still recycled through the collegiate system. Oftentimes, in fact, earning As in their classes despite doing significantly less work in their classes than the generations before them. 

[RELATED: COVID learning loss will decrease students' lifetime earnings, Stanford economist argues]

As Campus Reform reported last month, “Professors Philip Babcock of the University of California Santa Barbara, and Mindy Marks of the University of California Riverside, found in their November 2022 study that today’s students “hit the books for just 14 hours” a week compared to 24 hours in 1961, [according to] stateuniversity.com.

Universities have awakened to the reality that state and companies cannot put their faith in college graduates, forcing some educational institutions to seek the assistance of companies to train students. 

Higher Ed Dive, for example, recently pointed to a partnership between Google and the University of Texas System, wherein students “enrolled in Google Career Certificates programs will have access to the Google Career Certificates Employer Consortium, which includes more than 150 U.S. companies like Deloitte, Target and Verizon that say they will consider Google Career Certificate graduates for entry-level jobs.” 

But the move to partner with companies in an effort to better train students for the workforce may render itself useless as it comes at a time when the rate of return on college education is steadily declining.

Data from the Urban Institute, for example, showed that “‘the median debt among borrowers completing master’s degrees nearly doubled’ from 2000 to 2016, and ‘increases for borrowers obtaining professional doctoral degrees or research doctoral degrees roughly doubled.’” 

Dropping the college degree requirement altogether is an approach many citizens will take as they pursue cheaper alternatives to qualify for the workforce. 

“[A] degree should not be the only way to get a good paying job or have a fulfilling career,” Governor Cox’s press release concluded. 

Campus Reform contacted Governor Hogan, the University of Texas System, Google, and Dell Technologies for comment.  This article will be updated accordingly.