To say that the entire population of non–BA holders is being “viciously” punished is a gross exaggeration, is it not? According to the latest Census educational attainment numbers, 12 percent of adults aged 25–64 don’t have a high school degree or its equivalent. Thirty percent graduated from high school but never attempted college; 9 percent earned an associate degree; and 17 percent attended college but never earned a credential.
Surely there are real differences in the knowledge, skills, abilities, and attitudes of those populations. I’m an employer, and I wouldn’t consider hiring someone without a high school diploma to work as a policy analyst under any circumstances. Perhaps I’m denying my organization the potential services of a brilliant, motivated autodidact. But I think the odds of that are quite small. I agree that not all degrees need to take four years and said so. But there’s a big difference between saying we should create more variance in the length of college degree programs and saying that the vast majority of students shouldn’t be in college degree programs at all, but rather vocational programs leading to a narrowly defined (and thus, less flexible and valuable) workplace certificate.