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Grads

by Nicole Deterding and David Pedulla

Between 1990 and 2010, the number of for-profit postsecondary institutions in the United States more than tripled, to over 1,100. This rapid rise of for-profit colleges and universities was a sweeping change in the U.S. higher education landscape, particularly for students seeking two-year degrees and employers wishing to hire college graduates without a bachelor’s degree.

Given this monumental change, how do employers evaluate credentials from new educational institutions?

Two recent field experiments have examined employer responses to for-profit and non-profit credentials. These studies sent experimentally manipulated job applications – randomly assigning applicants either a for-profit or non-profit degree – to apply for real job openings. Neither study found a measurable difference in employers’ responses to job candidates who report an associate’s degree in business from a for-profit institution compared to one with an associate’s from a nearby community college.

While this work offers convincing estimates of how employers respond to job applicants with associate’s degrees, it leaves open questions about why employers don’t appear to register a difference between these institution types.

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Andras Tilcsik is a Ph.D. candidate in Organizational Behavior at Harvard University. His paper, “Pride and Prejudice: Employment Discrimination against Openly Gay Men in the United States” won the 2011 James D. Thompson Award from the Organizations, Occupations, and Work section of the American Sociological Association and was recently published in the American Journal of Sociology.  The following (after the jump) is the text of an interview recently conducted with Andras by Rachel Gorab, a Ph.D. student in the sociology program at Northeastern University.

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