A Nation Upside Down

Project Description

Several billions of dollars have been invested into
increasing the number of students who complete
high school and pursue a college education in the
United States. While high school completion rates
have improved, college completion rates have not,
and yet the number of jobs requiring a college
degree continues to rise. At Innovate+Educate, we
have conducted research that indicates the United
States is at full capacity for college completion—
at least the way higher education is currently
delivered. Every American who has the academic
ability, financial stability, and time to complete
a college degree is doing so. This leaves the 35
million incumbent workers who attempted college,
but left without a degree, as the largest – and
perhaps only – latent talent reservoir available for
vacant bachelor’s degree-level jobs. Employers
hold the key: about seventy percent (24.5 million)
of these 35 million workers found college-level
coursework completely doable, but had to abandon
their degree in order to hold down their current
jobs. The only way to expand our employability
pipeline will be to access this cohort, which
means rethinking the utility of a college degree
as a hiring and advancement filter. Inevitably,
the degree-before-work paradigm will need to
give way. Skills-based hiring, competency-based
credentialing, earn and learn pathways, formal
apprenticeships, and other innovations that rely
on demonstrated performance rather than degree
proxy signaling for advancement, will become
integral to national economic expansion.
An work+learn economy will result.