Condoleezza Rice, who holds 3 degrees, says America needs to ‘make a lot more use’ of skills-based hiring

BY JANE THIER and published by

School is out for the summer, but the debate over whether or not a college degree is still necessary for a good job in the U.S.—and whether it will be in the future—is only gaining more traction. Recent research finds that a college degree is still worth the investment. But more and more companies, including Google and Apple, are eliminating degree requirements when hiring some candidates. And leaders ranging from the CEOs of Delta and Nielsen to state governors have recently touted the merits of skills-based hiring, arguing that it can help diversify candidate pools and even act as a salve to the ongoing labor shortage.

Now the pro-skills contingent has a new proponent in the storied halls of one of the nation’s most selective institutions: former national security advisor and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who told Fortune, shortly before appearing at KPMG’s Women in Leadership Summit on June 21st, that she’s “very much in favor” of skills-based hiring.

That means something coming from Rice, a lifelong academic who boasts a mile-long CV of accolades. She graduated from college Phi Beta Kappa (America’s oldest academic honor society), went on to earn a master’s degree in political science, and at age 25 earned her Ph.D. in the same subject. Rice currently directs the Hoover Institution, the public policy research initiative at Stanford University, where she’s been on faculty since 1981. She holds at least 14 honorary doctorates. Plus, she knows a thing or two about nonacademic skills. Rice is an accomplished pianist who performed Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D Minor with the Denver Symphony Orchestra at age 15, and knows enough about the NFL to have been reportedly considered for a head coaching role.

Despite her numerous degrees, she doesn’t think those without one should be overlooked on the job market. The U.S. “needs to make a lot more use” of programs that enable people without four-year degrees to attain quality, high-paying jobs, Rice told Fortune.

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