That’s not a new premise, of course. Regardless of the field, four-year degrees have long been seen as a needed pathway to a better life and sustainable employment. While today’s trends show that bachelor’s degrees are indeed needed, they’re often earning job-seekers positions that pay low and require menial tasks.
In other words, today’s BA is fast becoming yesterday’s high school diploma. And the trickle-down effect that has on high-school grads seeking work is obvious.
Earlier this week, a New York Times story explained how companies such as law firms now often require four-year degrees for entry-level positions such as file clerks — jobs that used to be filled by high school graduates or those with two-year degrees.
According to The Times, economists call this “degree inflation” and say this trend is spreading into positions such as dental hygienists, cargo agents and claims adjusters. The bottom line: With high unemployment and tepid job markets, it’s now more important than ever for job-seekers to have a college degree on their resume.
Again, that’s not new.
Nevertheless, it highlights our predicament here in Alabama, where poverty rates are elevated, where average personal incomes aren’t on par with prosperous states, and where the gap between what universities charge for tuition and what the average Alabamian can afford is immense.
Remember, Alabama was given an “F” grade in terms of the affordability of a four-year college education in 2008 by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. Since then, the Great Recession has hammered the state, colleges across Alabama have raised tuition fees, and state appropriations to higher education haven’t kept up.
“Degree inflation” is the real deal; it may get worse. In today’s Alabama, that’s bad news.