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JFF VP Michael Collins in “Are College Degree Requirements Holding Black Job Seekers Back?”

October 14, 2020

Practices & Centers

For Black Americans, fundamental changes in both hiring practices and bachelor’s degree attainment must be equal partners in an equitable economic recovery.

JFF VP Michael Collins in “Are College Degree Requirements Holding Black Job Seekers Back?”

In an opinion column he wrote for Fortune, JFF Vice President Michael Collins argues that we must reconcile contradictory trends in the job market and employment policy that hurt Black Americans in two ways: by limiting both short-term chances of finding jobs and long-term prospects for economic advancement.

He notes that recent research has revealed that “degree inflation”—requiring a bachelor’s degree for a position that could be handled by someone with a lower-level credential—causes millions of people to miss out on job opportunities and has an outsize impact on low-income and nonwhite jobseekers. That has led policymakers to promote short-term training programs as the key to improving employment prospects, especially at this time of twin health care and economic crises.

However, on the other hand, de-emphasizing degree attainment can have a negative impact of its own, Collins explains, because, compared with a high school diploma, a bachelor’s degree can pay off in the form of a 74 percent premium in median lifetime wages.

“For Black Americans,” he writes, “fundamental changes in both hiring practices and bachelor’s degree attainment must be equal partners in an equitable economic recovery. Together, such changes hold potential to disrupt the systemic and structural barriers to economic opportunity and advancement that are holding Black job seekers back.”

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