By Sophie Nieto-Muñoz | New Jersey Monitor
New Jersey is joining a growing trend of states and private businesses looking to loosen college degree requirements to remove barriers to employment and expand their hiring pool.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order Monday directing the state’s Civil Service Commission to analyze which state government jobs should require relevant skills and experience instead of college degrees as a requirement for hiring.
“I’ve seen firsthand how diversity and skill and education can positively impact an organization and the communities around us. It is imperative that we recognize both skill and competency from all walks of life,” Allison Chris Myers, acting chair of the commission, said at a press conference Monday.
The commission has six months to determine which positions should no longer require a college degree and take steps to ensure their job postings reflect that.
Hundreds of applicants are rejected or dissuaded from applying to open jobs because of educational requirements, officials said.
The governor’s office did not say how many positions are expected to be impacted by the order. About 60,000 employees worked for the state government in 2019, making it New Jersey’s largest employer, according to the Civil Service Commission.
Companies like IBM, Dell, and Bank of America have in recent years said they will no longer require college degrees as prerequisites for some jobs.
A 2022 study from nonprofit research firm the Burning Glass Institute found nearly half of all middle-skill jobs and more than 30% of high-skill jobs dropped degree requirements between 2017 and 2019. An additional 1.4 million jobs could be expanded to workers without college degrees in the next five years, the study predicts.
Nearly 2 million New Jerseyans are workers without bachelor’s degrees, according to Byron Auguste, CEO of Opportunity@Work, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit labor organization.
“The state of New Jersey is sending one clear message — if you can do the job, you can get the job,” he said at the press conference. “This is the right message, this is a motivating message, and it’s a smart one.”
The national unemployment rate for workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher was 2% in March, and 4% for high school graduates with no college degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Murphy’s executive order follows similar moves to de-emphasize higher education degrees taken by governors in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Alaska, Colorado, North Carolina, and Utah.