One of the most pressing issues today facing America, particularly the generation born between 1980 and 1996, is the student loan bubble. Today, there is more than $1.1 trillion dollars in outstanding student loan debt in America, higher than  even the amount of outstanding American credit card debt.

The worst part is that many of these graduates aren’t even finding good jobs, forcing them to work as waiters or Starbucks baristas or not working at all, with many electing to go back to school and racking up even more debt. Quite frankly, for many young people in America, the idea of a college degree becoming a ticket to a stable job is as hollow as a $.99 chocolate Easter bunny.

Worse yet, colleges across America only continue to raise their prices, with the inflation-adjusted price of going to college increasing by 42 percent since the 2000-01 school year, according to federal data. The bottom line is something needs to be done, fast, or the same bust that happened in the mortgage market (and all its many ripples) will soon come to the student loan market.

Understanding The Problem

So what can hiring managers and HR folk do? Well, frankly, a lot, as the solution really starts with them.

The fundamental problem today is that students are focusing in on gaining a college degree rather than focusing in on gaining in on the skills that come with the college degree. People who go to college with a specific job in mind, like nursing, engineering or plumbing, are getting jobs – and well-paying jobs at that.

Instead, it is people who are going to school with little concept of what they want to be and have more nebulous majors (i.e. sociology), who are unemployed. The question is: why are they going to school in the first place?

Because more and more job descriptions are listing a four-year degree as a requirement.

The Solution

Instead, job descriptions, as well as the screening process itself, should be skill-based, not achievement-based. In other words, rather than putting college requirements in a job description like two-year degree or four-year degree required, put the skills necessary to accomplish a task.

How do you determine if those people have those skills? Well, first off, there is a host of new candidate screening software out there that can determine exactly that (we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention our own, VoiceGlance, but in fairness, there are many others). Checking references and having them submit samples of their work is always effective as well.

But if hiring managers out there can stop putting “four-year degree required” in each job description and instead the skills that are truly needed, people are going to begin to notice. The lesson to job seekers out there will be clear: it isn’t about gaining a diploma, it is about gaining a set of marketable skills.

It will help out your company, because now the hiring process will be on if the person can do the job, not how many boxes they’ve checked off. And, without being too dramatic, it will help America as well.