At one point in history, people who went to college were in the minority. Higher education was reserved primarily for intellectuals hoping to have a career in academia. Today, however, the opposite is true.
By the end of the twentieth century, going to college was considered a “no-brainer”. Every student was expected to at least apply to post-secondary schools, and not attending one after high school is now considered career suicide.
Today’s colleges have become big business. Soaring costs, grade inflation, and the diminishing value of an undergraduate degree have put pursuing a higher education out of reach for millions of Americans.
Those who do go to college end up walking out with thousands of dollars of debt. As of 2019, Americans owed a total of 1.64 trillion dollars in student loans. To make matters worse, many students leave college without any real job prospects, and no way to pay back what they owe .
Change may be on the horizon for the American college system. Tech giant Google recently announced plans to replace the need for a four-year college degree with six-month certificates.
Instead of requiring four-year college degrees, Google will be offering six-month courses for prospective employees. These certificates will give students the opportunity to train for in-demand jobs in a fraction of the time of a conventional University degree.
Successful students will graduate with a Google Career Certificate. The company will consider that equivalent to a four-year college degree. According to Grow With Google, the certificates will provide the following benefits:
- A pathway to jobs: Certificate completers can directly connect with a group of top employers.
- Become job-ready for in-demand, high-paying roles: Qualify for jobs across fields with median average annual salaries of over $50,000.
- Earn a certificate that helps you stand out: You can share your Google Career Certificate on your LinkedIn profile and on printed resumes, CVs, and other documents to help stand out to employers.
- Gain access to career resources: Learners will have access to resources to facilitate their job search and interview preparation .
Expanding Education Options
Ken Walker, Google’s Senior Vice President for Global Affairs, announced in July that the company is expanding its education options.
“College degrees are out of reach for many Americans, and you shouldn’t need a college diploma to have economic security,” he said. “We need new, accessible job-training solutions—from enhanced vocational programs to online education—to help America recover and rebuild.” 
He explained on the company’s blog that the Grow with Google initiative assists individuals to acquire necessary skills to get a job or start a business.
He also announced that Google will be funding one hundred thousand scholarships based on the financial needs of applicants. The company is working with the YWCA, NPower, and JFF to commit ten million dollars in job training grants for communities across the country.
With a Google Career Certificate, graduates can get a job in positions such as Project Manager, Data Analyst, or UX Designer. These roles typically range in salary from 66 thousand dollars to 93 thousand dollars per year .
How Much Does the Certificate Cost?
Google has not yet released the cost for the certificate. When you consider the cost of the programs the company currently offers, however, this new certificate stands to be shockingly affordable.
The Google IT Support Program costs students 49 dollars per month. If the Google Career Certificate is the same price, that makes it a mere three hundred dollars for six months. Compare that to the cost of college in America, which is on average thirty thousand dollars per year. The savings for a student here are staggering.
The other benefit with the Google Certificate is the post-graduation assistance. Google has promised that they will assist graduates in their job searches, and help connect them with some of the country’s largest employers.
In addition, graduates will also have access to hundreds of apprenticeship opportunities with Google itself .
The Changing Face of Higher Education
Unlike with previous generations, today’s college graduates are no longer guaranteed a job after they complete a University degree. Depending on the student, a college degree may not be as valuable as it once was.
Not only has the cost of a college degree increased dramatically over the last several decades, but there is increasing evidence that the actual value of the degree itself is diminishing. Why? Because everyone has one. What once made a job applicant stand out on a resume is now run-of-the-mill .
Google’s certificate program has the potential to change the face of higher education. How? By offering the two things that students and their parents value most: job training skills and prestige.
“Do not underestimate the power of the latter,” says journalist Jon Miltimore. “Prestige mattes a lot. In fact, when you look at actual education many college students receive today, prestige is what they’re purchasing, not education.” 
Large corporations like Google are highly respected, and as such have the opportunity and ability to offer the job training and validation students are looking for. These businesses could bring back apprenticeship-style learning and completely disrupt the current educational model.
Corporations can offer high-quality, job-specific training at a fraction of the cost and time of traditional colleges. They can do this while also providing graduates with a much better chance at getting a job upon completion.
It’s possible that programs like the Google Certificate will provide some much-needed competition for American colleges. With more affordable options available to students, educational institutions will have to re-think what they offer, and at what cost.
Is college going away? Likely no. At least, not right away. But perhaps this is a step toward a world where high-quality education is accessible to everyone.