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Maryland Sets a New Standard

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is deconstructing the “college for all” mentality, and hopefully more states will follow his lead. His new Skilled Through Alternative Routes (STAR) program eliminates baccalaureate degree requirements for many state jobs and creates new pathways for economic success.

For years, Americans have been trapped in a vortex of over-credentialing. Thousands of Maryland state jobs required employees to attain expensive degrees with little application to on-the-job duties—until now. The STAR program creates new job opportunities for thousands of Marylanders and offers a model that leaders across the United States should imitate to solve the problems created by a “college for all” mentality.

In recent decades, students have been told that entry into the workforce requires them to accrue massive debt for expensive college degrees that takes years to pay off. Further, many students don’t even use these degrees when they do find their place in the workforce. To unlock the potential of the U.S. workforce, employers should rethink degree requirements and ask whether a college degree is actually necessary to fulfill the demands of the job.

Critics of Governor Hogan’s decision allege that his policies will “dumb down” the workforce and diminish the importance of education in the United States. However, the STAR program explicitly seeks not to de-value education but rather to open jobs to highly skilled workers with previous workforce experience or on-the-job instruction. A new employee with the necessary skills for the job, regardless of his or her educational background, is a strong asset to a workplace. Hiring qualified employees does not diminish the value of education. Rather, allowing for a wide range of educational experiences to qualify a job candidate for a position allows skilled workers to contribute invaluable expertise to their employers and the economy.    

Many employers ignore the legitimate harm of arbitrarily demanding baccalaureate degrees during the hiring process. Excluding non-degree holding—but otherwise highly-skilled—workers from employment prospects dramatically reduces the economic mobility of Americans seeking professional fulfillment and economic opportunities.

Amid a historic worker shortage, there is no reason to preclude automatically a skilled worker from a wide range of professional roles.

American lawmakers and employers must realize: the workers our country needs are already here, and they are ready to work.

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