A growing number of U.S. employers are nixing college degrees from hiring requirements in job postings, according to Indeed.

In January, fewer than 1 in 5 of the jobs listed on the platform required a four-year degree or higher. Over half (52 percent) didn’t list any education requirements at all. And corporate America isn’t the only one jumping on the “no-degree” bandwagon. About a dozen states have also removed college degrees as a requirement for government jobs.

While this news may suggest you can skip college and the student loan bill, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

Over a third (35 percent) of U.S. adults consider getting a college degree as an essential part of the American dream, according to Bankrate’s Financial Security Survey. Research also shows that employers still prefer and better compensate college graduates versus those with just a high school diploma.

Key insights: The value of a college degree

  • Most Americans think that the cost of college has become unmanageable. 56% of U.S. adults agree that the cost of higher education has gotten out of control. (Bankrate)
  • Over a third of U.S. adults have taken on debt for their education. 37% of Americans have taken on debt to finance their education. And 16% of U.S. adults are still repaying their loans. (Bankrate)
  • Despite this, many still consider a college degree part of the American dream. 65% of U.S. adults say that having a successful career is part of the American dream, along with getting a college degree (35%). (Bankrate)
  • Those with a four-year degree earn significantly more than high school graduates. Bachelor’s degree holders earn 50% more than high school graduates on a weekly basis, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest data.
  • By 2031, most U.S. jobs will require some form of postsecondary education or training. 72% of jobs will require some sort of postsecondary degree and/or training by 2031, according to the Center on Education and the Workforce.

More U.S. employers are eliminating college degrees as hiring requirements

Less than 18 percent of job postings on Indeed listed college degrees as a hiring requirement in January — down from 20.4 percent in 2019. The report, which was published earlier this year, also found that over half (52 percent) of U.S. job postings on the platform lacked an education requirement.

But Indeed’s findings are not the only ones pointing to this growing trend.

In a recent survey by Intelligent, 45 percent of the U.S. companies surveyed said they planned on removing bachelor’s degrees as a requirement for some positions this year. Meanwhile, 55 percent said they had already eliminated this requirement in 2023.

PayScale’s latest Compensation Best Practices report also found over a third of surveyed organizations (34 percent) have eliminated degrees as an employment requirement.

Why some employers are moving away from college degrees

Companies in Intelligent’s report shared their reasoning for eliminating degree requirements in 2023. Respondents could choose multiple answers. The most popular were increasing workforce diversity (70 percent) and attracting more applicants (69 percent).

Many employers (68 percent) also think that college isn’t the only way to gain skills.

Affordability issues have many doubting college

According to Gallup polling, only 36 percent of Americans feel confident about higher education. This is a decrease from 57 percent in 2015 and 48 percent in 2018. Affordability issues contribute to this crisis of confidence.

The cost of college has more than doubled over the last four decades, going from $13,453 in 1982-83 to $30,884 in 2022-23. Those figures are in constant dollars, meaning they’ve been adjusted for inflation.

This rise in education costs has prompted many to take out federal or private student loans when other forms of aid fall short. In fact, according to Bankrate’s 2023 Financial Regret Survey, over a third of U.S. adults (37 percent) took out student debt. Of those, 16 percent are still paying back their loans.

Overall, close to a third of U.S. adults (32 percent) — and 48 percent of those with student loan debt— believe that student debt has become a national crisis.

Additionally, interest rates on student loans and other credit products have risen across the board over the past couple of years, making it hard for borrowers to pay off their debts.

Why college degrees still matter

Despite a growing number of employers claiming they’re dropping college degrees, a report by the Burning Glass Institute paints a different picture. As many as 45 percent of the firms that dropped this requirement from their job postings did so “in name only.” That means that while they don’t mention college degrees, they still hire the same share of college graduates.

PayScale’s survey also found that 8 percent of employers pay higher salaries to those with an associate’s degree versus those without, Meanwhile, 16 percent pay higher salaries to those with a bachelor’s degree and 23 percent to those with a master’s degree or higher.

Despite rising college costs, our research at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce shows that college is still worth it for many Americans due to the earnings premiums it brings. At the median, bachelor’s degree holders earn $2.8 million over the course of their lifetimes, whereas high school graduates earn a median of $1.6 million over the course of their lifetimes. In the future, this earnings gap will likely widen as an increasing number of jobs will require a bachelor’s degree or higher. — Jeff Strohl, director of the Center on Education and the Workforce

Research by the Center on Education and the Workforce also projects that by 2031, 72 percent of jobs will require some form of postsecondary education and/or training.

Tips to make college more affordable

The following alternatives can make it easier to afford college or at least reduce the need for student loans.

Supplement college with work

A survey by the College Savings Foundation (CSF) found that 53 percent of college-bound students are currently working to contribute to their college costs. Close to 80 percent also plan on working while taking on higher education classes, with 19 percent taking on a part-time opportunity and 58 percent working full-time.

Consider staying local or applying to a no-loan school

Public institutions tend to give discounts to resident students, which can further reduce the cost of higher education. There’s also a growing number of no-loan schools, where the institution meets most of their student’s financial needs through grants, discounts and scholarships.

“You may also want to look into programs where you go to community college first, as they’re typically less expensive,” Chris McGee, chair of CSF, says. “Spend two years getting your associate’s degree and then transfer to a four-year institution and get your bachelor’s.”

Exhaust all other financial aid options before borrowing and consider your ROI

Apply to as many scholarships and grants as possible to reduce your out-of-pocket costs. Only borrow money if absolutely necessary.

If you need to take out student loans, first consider your degree’s projected return on investment (ROI). Compare your estimated salary against potential costs using a student loan calculator. By doing this, you’ll be able to determine how much you can afford to borrow, without sinking your financial future.

Bankrate insight

I wish I had considered my degree’s ROI before getting my own student loans. After graduating, I got hit with a student loan bill that wasn’t at all what I was expecting, forcing me to work multiple jobs to keep myself afloat in the first years of my career.

Heidi Rivera, Bankrate loans writer

Lastly, when borrowing money, federal student loans should be your first option as they come with certain benefits, like income-driven repayment and forgiveness. Private loans lack these perks.

BestColleges is a Red Ventures company.

  • This survey was conducted using an online interview administered to members of the YouGov Plc panel of individuals who have agreed to take part in surveys. Emails are sent to panelists selected at random from the base sample. Total sample size was 2,317 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken March 6-8, 2024. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all US adults (aged 18 and older).Bankrate commissioned YouGov Plc to conduct the survey. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 3,684 U.S. adults, of whom 1,400 have ever had a student loan and 588 currently have student loan debt. Fieldwork was undertaken on June 12-15, 2023. The survey was carried out online and meets rigorous quality standards. It employed a non-probability-based sample using both quotas upfront during collection and then a weighting scheme on the back end designed and proven to provide nationally representative results.