Using Cognitive Screening to Replace Costly Diplomas

Someone writes:

The Ivy League aristocracy will continue to perpetuate itself till the end of time unless hiring managers in high-paying industries stop recruiting solely from the “top schools.” And until that happens, online education will never get the respect that it (genuinely) deserves, nor will offline tier-2 or tier-3 schools – or their graduates. So the whole “virtual education is going to disrupt universities” argument is DOA.

Who’s ever asked their doctor, lawyer, or accountant where they went to school, or selected them because of where they went? Yet, in industries like consulting, or investment banking, it’s understood that the only non-Ivy Leaguers working there must be the grey haired partners who joined the firm 40 years ago.

The Ivy League is competitive because a lot of people apply when there are vastly more open spots available at lesser schools – it’s a simple supply and demand issue. If so many people didn’t apply to the Ivy League, including MIT and Caltech, I imagine those schools would have much less prestige. In coping with the demand, the most prestigious schools can only choose the best and the brightest. This selection process essentially does the due diligence work of the employer when searching for new hires. Employers can just choose graduates of the most prestigious schools, knowing graduates meet a very high cognitive threshold. In today’s labor market – one where the employer perpetually has the upper hand due to the huge labor force relative to the number of jobs – the employer has the luxury of choosing only the best and the brightest out of huge pool of applicants, and why wouldn’t they? That is the most rational thing to do in order to maximize profits. Smart people learn faster, which means less money is spent training them. One can argue that being admitted to a top school is more important than the degree itself, and this seems to manifest itself in how dropouts of top-schools tend to be very successful. Since it’s IQ – not degree – that engenders success, to reform education we should not go after the Ivy League; instead, we need to find cheaper ways (than costly diplomas) for talented individuals to signal to employers their exceptional intelligence. A chemical engineering degree pays a lot, but getting the degree requires a high-IQ; hence, IQ not degree, is ultimately the underlying factor for success or failure at life. But then you run into the issue of disparate impact, from Wikipedia:

Cognitive ability tests represent the best single predictor of job performance, but also represent the predictor most likely to have substantial adverse impact on employment opportunities for members of several racial and ethnic minority groups. Debates over the use of these tests in selection often involve trade-offs between two criteria that are valued by decision makers – that is, efficiency and equity. Findings and methods from decision research can help us frame these trade-offs, but in most cases they cannot be avoided.

The issue of expensive tuition and credentialism can be ameliorated to some degree by ending disparate impact lawsuits and expanding the use cognitive tests to replace costly diplomas, but of course this will run into much opposition from the left, who insist that such tests are racist because the wrong people score well.

Related posts on using cognitive screening to replace diplomas:

Education and Reality

An Indebted Generation

Testing for Career Placement Gains Momentum

IQ and SAT Scores as a Solution to the Student Loan Crisis

Comments are closed.