College & Workforce Readiness Opinion

The 17 Million Mystery

By Richard Whitmire — October 21, 2010 1 min read
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Why, asks commentary writer Richard Vedder in the Chronicle of Higher Education, are 17 million Americans with four-year degrees working in jobs that don’t require those degrees? Isn’t that a waste of an education? Isn’t that proof that far too many people go to college?

This is an important issue in the boys debate. Why worry so much about the college gender gaps if those men don’t really need college anyway? My answer: because college is the new high schools. Employers have lots of hiring options. To many, only applicants with two or four-year-degree have the demonstrated people skills desired in a job -- even though the job doesn’t require a degree.

In my book I describe an encounter with an Enterprise Rental Car worker clearly doing a job that didn’t require a four-year degree. And yet, Enterprise hires nearly all college graduates for those jobs. Why? Because college is the new high school.

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