Recent data about college graduates reveals interesting insights about the value of a college education and the importance of exposing highschoolers to various options. 

The polling found that nearly half of employees say college did not prepare them for the workplace. About 67% of over 900 small-business owners state that graduates don’t have “relevant skills that today’s business community needs.” And only 10% of those owners prefer job candidates with college degrees. For some industries, college degrees have become less valuable and outdated. 

Other surveys have found similar findings. 40% of business leaders think recent college graduates are unprepared for the workforce. Some of the major reasons include work ethic, communication skills, a sense of entitlement, and technological skills. Increasingly, many believe that K-12 schools should emphasize preparing students for careers and basic life skills rather than college readiness.   

These statistics make the case that college is not the right path for everyone.   High schools should encourage their students to explore a variety of different career paths—some that will require a four-year college degree, and some that will not. 

I, for one, benefited from my four-year liberal arts degree that taught me how to think, write, and consider multiple perspectives before settling on an opinion. I went to school not for the sole sake of job preparation, but rather to learn how to learn. But some of my best learning opportunities came through on-the-job internships and working on extracurricular leadership teams. Learning should not be restricted to the classroom and four years of undergrad.

For others, like my cousin, who is pursuing a career in installing solar panels, a four-year degree is not a good fit as he needs on-the-job training.

Just as in K-12 education, there is no one-size-fits-all post high school option. Thankfully, as Sam Kain, a finance professor at Walsh College in Michigan, said, “Neither a college degree nor a traditional 9-to-5 job is necessary to succeed in today’s economy.”  

For years, the four-year degree “was considered the best pathway to the middle class.” But now, employers and even college graduates themselves are realizing that having a degree does not necessarily prepare one for the workforce. Virginia recently joined Alaska, Maryland, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Utah in allowing those without a college degree to have state jobs. 

The private and public sectors should continue to expand educational and career options and increase flexibility for young Americans.

Read the Policy Focus on Degree Inflation here.