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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Help wanted: Need master’s in janitorial science

Now that one-third of adults have a bachelor’s degree, employers don’t see it as a guarantee of higher intelligence or competence, writes economist Richard Vedder. Getting a positive “

sheepskin effect” requires a master’s degree. “If trends continue, by 2025 we will be offering master’s degrees in janitorial science.”

Yet “obtaining a master’s is not a surefire path to economic success,” he writes.

In The Master’s as the New Bachelor’s Degree, Mark Schneider and Jorge Klor de Alva report that a master’s degree pays off in some fields, but not others.

Philosophy master’s graduates in Colorado had annual median earnings under $30,000, while “area studies” master’s graduates in Texas typically earned a relatively paltry $36,000 annually. Yet petroleum engineers with master’s degrees in Colorado had typical earnings of $176,500 annually, six times the earnings of philosophy graduates.

“We expend enormous resources in producing pieces of paper (diplomas) conveying labor market information,” writes Vedder.  Adding master’s degrees “aggravates an already hugely inefficient system.”

Employers should create an alternative to college degrees, he proposes.

Suppose every person seeking highly skilled employment in America took a standardized National College Equivalency Examination (NCEE) that was 3.5 hours long, testing critical reasoning and writing skills (perhaps the existing CLA+ exam), general knowledge that all college graduates should know (via a 75 multiple choice question test), and maybe 25 questions in the student’s area of major interest.

If people could skip college, yet prove their employability by acing a test, would that be fairer?

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