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The College Degree Controversy

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Is it really worth it?

Deep-seated in our minds from an early age, many of us have heard some form of the notion that in order to be successful, you must go to college and earn a degree. We’ve been fed this idea through our parents and family, our teachers, corporate requirements, and in various ways through the media, but is it true? There are some professions that will absolutely always require a degree, (i.e. medical professionals, scientists, etc.) but more and more big-name companies are no longer requiring one in order to be considered for high paying roles. While committing to higher education is an admirable trait, business leaders are beginning to take notice that applicants with little to no college education may still have the qualities or life experience that they are looking for. On the other side of the coin, are those with degrees being inflated with a false sense of security?

This subject is surrounded in controversy, but in this ever-changing country filled with mounting student loan debt, as well as an untapped pool of underrated individuals who may not even have the opportunity to attend classes post-high school, it’s worth putting some thought into if college is the best policy for everyone.

Forty years ago, going to college seemed to be worth the investment. For many today, college just means an indefinite sentence of paying back student debt. Standard payment plans for federal student loans typically average 10 years but for many, the reality is more likely to be 20 years or longer. This is not to say that we should stop pursuing higher education, but to be more cautious with our decisions. Imagine an 18-year-old making the commitment to be tens of thousands of dollars in debt to earn their degree in something such as marketing or information technology, etc. Years later this person graduates, and with the mindset that has been instilled, (college equals success) they will expect to land a dream job in their field right away and that they will be a rock star at it, which is not always the case. This false sense of security is a problematic inflation to the ego.

"False sense of security is problematic..."

Let’s say these new college grads eventually get a decent job in their field but learn that it is much harder to apply their knowledge in an actual work setting. Consider the possibility that they begin to resent the very thing they went to school for - leading them to quit or to get fired! Meanwhile, a person like Steve Jobs, who dropped out of college, gets a chance at the same position. Although they might be from a different walk of life, they excel at the job. Their life experience as an underdog, combined with a hunger for proving themselves and simply a natural talent, prepared them for the role. The graduate, on the other hand, acquires a job in an unrelated field from their major and spends their days carrying the burden of debt from a career that never took off.

The true correlation between education and job performance

The Predictive Index (PI) states that there is little correlation between education and job performance, just 1%! (as cited from an academic publication titled “The Validity and Utility of Selection Methods in Personnel Psychology: Practical and Theoretical Implications of 100 Years of Research Findings”) A more telling predictor would be to look at one’s cognitive skills and specific behaviors. Companies like PI are pioneering methods that leverage assessments in order to increase the predictability of on the job performance - with success rates approaching 60%

It seems troubling that recruiters and hiring managers still tend to scan over a resume for an average of 6 seconds, and with a significant focus on the “education” portion. A college-educated individual may appear to have the required expertise of a role, but can they use that knowledge to get the actual job done? In these instances where a person is hired solely because they look perfect on paper, thousands of dollars can be wasted on training an employee who fails and ends up quitting or getting fired. As a result, more companies are waiving the requirement of a college degree for many positions.

In 2019, information on practically any topic is available with the click of a mouse or the tap of a screen. People have access to more information than what is being taught in most classrooms today. Those who strive for success without the luxury of college are some of the most creative individuals and should not be overlooked. Organizations could all stand to benefit by digging much deeper into job applicants, rather than constantly passing up on those who are lacking in the “education” section of their resumes. The world is moving quickly, and employers need to keep their eyes open to those unique minds who can catapult them into a brighter future.

Dig into the DNA

Digging into the DNA of every candidate is more important than ever before. In order to properly predict if a candidate will perform well in a specific role and for a specific hiring manager, understanding their drivers and needs are non-negotiable. As a result, Qualigence developed the Core 4 Candidate Assessment Process to evaluate the candidate’s knowledge, behaviors, drives, and culture fit. For more information on this process; or for additional information on our services, visit

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