The Negative Impacts of Credential Inflation

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The Negative Impacts of Credential Inflation
Jack W. Davidge
Western Governor’s University

The Negative Impacts of Credential Inflation

A market that is flooded with credential laden workers vying for a small number of jobs could tip the economy into a recession (Collins, 2002). This idea put forth by Collins seems prophetic when the current state of the economy is taken into account, and brings to light an underlying additional cause of the slow recovery being witnessed in the job market, credential inflation. This is the process by which educational or academic credentials lose value over time, partnered with lowered expectations of holding a degree in the job market. Credential inflation is increasing rapidly, causing larger debt among the workforce due to over-schooling, leaving college educated individuals with fewer jobs upon graduation, and resulting in employers requiring degrees for jobs where they were once not needed. This weakening of the belief in credentials has been a persistent trend in the last century in higher education, and has come to the forefront in recent decades due to technical job refinement, making its mark upon the job market as well. As students take on higher amounts of student loan debt because of the perceived advantages a degree warrants, the economic burden upon younger generations increases. Even with degrees in hand, students after graduation are continuing to find less well paying jobs that require a bachelors degree. More and more individuals are faced with the choice to gain additional education and incur more debt, or settle for a lower paying job and remain in student loan debt longer. Employers that at one time required high school diplomas now only hire individuals with bachelor’s or even graduate degrees. If this is the direction America’s economic and educational culture is heading without pause and reflections of outcome, than a resulting catastrophe is not just chance, but a real probability.

The growth in credential inflation over the last twenty years, has accelerated, and when a moment is reached where higher education is commonplace, it becomes a vicious contest to receive the most amount of credentialing possible If a degree is seen as influential, and is depended upon to get the same jobs as previous non-degree holders, it follows that more education and a degree would benefit the individual in the future. Many studies show this ever increasing trend of the acquisition of higher education. In an analysis by The National Center for Educational Statistics (“Fast Facts,” 2011) on enrollment numbers in secondary education, ”...the percentage increase in the number of students age 25 and over has been larger than the percentage increase in the number of younger students, and this pattern is expected to continue.” The students in the 25 and over group between 2000 and 2009 saw an increase of 43 percent and in the next nine years can expect another 23 percent increase in college enrollment. This prevailing situation is compounded by the fact the more of the total population are seeking degrees, and that job creation has stagnated (NECS, “Fast Facts,” 2011). With an ever increasing number of degree holders entering the workforce with higher credentials, the number of actual jobs available to a credentialed workers declines. The prevailing thought is that an increase in education coupled with higher job entry requirements is necessary, because of heightened job complexity. Contrary to this is that, there is no evidence that the more educated the worker is, the more competent they will be (Collins, 1979). Brown’s argument is that students may simply be getting degrees to increase their chances of landing a job, rather than gaining the expertise, through a degree program, to do the job (2004). The evidence for this rears its ugly head, when degrees are fabricated by individuals to simply gain entrance into a job; a job they would not...
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