Workforce Said To Demand More College Degrees

By Mark Pitsch — December 05, 1990 2 min read

Professional, technical, and managerial jobs--generally those requiring the attainment of a college degree--will account for 70 percent of the employment growth by the end of the century, a new report by two Cornell University researchers concludes.

To meet the demand, the number of college graduates entering the workforce must increase by 29 percent, or 286,000 graduates, annually between 1992 and 2000, say the researchers, John H. Bishop and Shani Carter.

Moreover, although more college graduates will be needed, the decrease in the number of college graduates that began in the 1980’s “will almost certainly get worse,” says the report, “The Worsening Shortage of College Graduate Workers.”

The expansion in the number of jobs requiring a college degree anticipated in the report is even greater than labor experts predict. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects professional, technical, and managerial jobs to account for 44.5 percent of the nation’s employment growth by 2000.

Mr. Bishop and Ms. Carter, who studied labor data over the past 20 years, argue that BLS projections have consistently been incorrect, and that the agency’s employment projections rely on faulty methodology.

For example, they cite an August 1981 BLS prediction that these jobs would account for 28 percent of the employment growth between 1978 and 1990, and that operatives, laborers, and service workers would account for 34 percent of the growth.

However, they say, 52 percent of the employment growth during that period came from the former group, and 9 percent came from the latter.

Furthermore, asking employers if certain jobs require a college degree “depends on circumstances that analysts and researchers have little knowledge of and no ability to forecast a decade ahead,” the study says.

“Education is a public function, and a public-policy response to the [projected] shortage appears to be in order,” the researchers conclude. “Cost-effective ways of stimulating a substantial increase in the supply of college graduates are needed.”

To increase the number of college graduates, the authors recommend:

Changing immigration law to allow an additional 100,000 college-educated immigrants into the country each year.

Expanding Advanced Placement programs and encouraging college students to take classes during the summer to facilitate expedient attainment of a degree.

Encouraging adults to return to college to pursue a degree.

Keeping public tuitions low.

Strengthening academic standards in high schools and bolstering dropout-prevention programs.

The study was paid for by Cornell’s Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies, the Center on the Educational Quality of the Workforce at the University of Pennsylvania, and a New York State Fellowship for Minority Graduate Students.

More information is available from John H. Bishop, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., 14851-0952.

A version of this article appeared in the December 05, 1990 edition of Education Week as Workforce Said To Demand More College Degrees