Barriers to work are coming down across the country, and Georgia is no exception.
Georgia lawmakers joined leaders in other states, as well as in the private sector, in recognizing that some jobs that require a four-year degree… might not actually require a four-year degree.
Senate Bill 3, sponsored by Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, requires the state Department of Administrative Services to reduce the number of administrative positions that require a four-year college degree after reviewing and identifying jobs that do not warrant them as a condition of employment. The bill passed both chambers almost unanimously (with only one “nay” coming from the Senate) and now awaits Gov. Brian Kemp’s signature.
The passage of SB 3 is indicative of a few trends. Legislators have been increasingly friendly to reducing obstacles to work, partly due to labor market demands and job shortages. Georgia has taken action to remove occupational licensing barriers by recognizing some qualifications and certifications from out of state. Similar measures have passed in other states.
The high and increasing cost of obtaining a college degree also factors into this effort. While qualifications and licenses are typically required to ensure quality and safety, researchers and policymakers have assessed that they often do more harm than good. Many licensing practices have been shown to disadvantage minorities and the poor, and requiring a four-year degree attaches obvious and inherent costs to workforce entry. The necessity of such requirements is worth reviewing.
Finally, the general shift of focus from hiring based on education to hiring based on experience and skill is shared by the public and private sector. Several companies, especially in the tech sphere, have noticed the supply-demand discrepancy between job seekers and available positions and responded by dropping their degree requirements when applicable.
Companies have taken to recruiting workers from a wider range of industries, speeding up the background check process and retraining current employees. Some have also launched apprenticeship programs and shifted recruitment to community colleges.
Georgia joins a few other states in making it easier to work without a college degree. Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro issued an executive order earlier this year eliminating four year degree requirements for 92% of state government jobs, roughly 65,000 positions, and ordered a review of the other 8% to determine the necessity of a degree. Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued a similar executive order not long after.
These moves follow similar actions in 2022, which saw Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announce initiatives to lower degree requirements in their respective states.
The bipartisanship in reducing degree requirements is worth noting. The rationales for Polis and Shapiro, both Democrats, mirrored that of Republicans Cox, Dunleavy and Hogan. Even the White House has noticed the benefits of shifting to skills-based hiring. Much of the opposition, not surprisingly, comes from academics who fail to see college as a means to an end.
Georgia is taking a productive step in addressing workforce shortages, improving opportunities for workers and doing away with costly and exclusionary practices. If this trend continues throughout the country, it will lead to a fairer and more accessible environment for job seekers in state governments and beyond.