Already states as diverse as Massachusetts, Delaware, Minnesota, Virginia and California have cut college degree requirements.
But many of the same states continue to push high schoolers to obtain costly college degrees by requiring them to fill out federal applications for student aid.
At least 12 states now require high schoolers to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms as a requirement for graduation, although a parental opt-out is allowed by most.
FAFSA is the universal federal application for grants, scholarships, work-study, and loans to help pay for college.
The application doesn’t obligate students to take out college loans or accept other forms of tuition assistance, but it is a powerful nudge for students to go to college.
“FAFSA completion is strongly associated with postsecondary enrollment: 92% of seniors who completed the FAFSA enrolled by the November following graduation,” said the National College Attainment Network.
Massachusetts in one state cutting back on degree requirements for hiring, citing a desire to rely more on skills-based hiring in hopes of a more qualified workforce.
“As the state’s largest employer, we rely on a strong, diverse workforce to deliver crucial services and programs,” wrote Gov. Maura Healey, a Democrat, in her order cutting the degree requirements, reported Fortune. “But too many job applicants are being held back by unnecessary degree requirements.”
Healey said that she hopes that private businesses will follow the state’s lead “by adopting similar skills-based hiring practices.”
In fact, however, data indicates that businesses have adopted skills-based hiring at a faster rate than state and local governments have – or at least have dropped their degree requirements faster than government.
A survey published in November by Intelligent.com found 55% of companies eliminated bachelor’s degree requirements in 2023, and 45% said they will eliminate more bachelor’s degree requirements in 2024.
Correspondingly, students are becoming worried they aren’t getting their money’s worth out of a college diploma.
Philip Cohen, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland–College Park, told Fortune that students today feel that a degree “just [is] not a guarantee anymore” of a secure career, as maybe it was in the past.
And cutting degree requirements is an easy thing to do for business, which is already dissatisfied with the quality of college graduates.
California has axed college diploma requirements for 169 jobs already, and it is considering more cuts.
One local union is worried that cutting degrees will also lower wages.
The largest unions in the country represent teachers, who are often paid more just for getting prestigious degrees.
Simultaneously, higher education lobbyists are still pushing the value of college degrees to state lawmakers.