If I were doing this for David Letterman, my list of “Stupid Employer Tricks” would look something like this:

#10: Pay as little as possible, irrespective of the employee’s loyalty.

#9: Promote relatives; skip over veterans.

#8: Micro-manage middle managers.

#7: Avoid talking personally with your customers.

#6: Fail to implement a “How was our service?” program.

#5: Fail to micro-manage your Webmaster.

#4: Hold divisional meetings more than 30 minutes/week.

#3: Fail to publish & enforce sexual harassment guidelines.

#2: Promote only college graduates.

#1: Neglect to pay withholding tax to the IRS.

I put the college graduate requirement close to the “top” of my list. Right there next to stiffing the IRS. Yet corporations have been implementing this rule for a generation. There is a reason for this, one which nobody dares say publicly. Businesses are using the college degree as a way to screen out members of voting groups that are given special consideration by the federal government. The bureaucrats have made it illegal, or close to it, for businesses to use general testing to screen job candidates. They can use highly specialized tests for certain jobs, but not general tests.

So, employers have gone to a “college-degree-required” screening strategy. They impose it on everyone, so regulatory agencies won’t be all over them for discrimination. Discrimination against morons, I guess. “No moron left behind.” The policy is, nevertheless, a bad one. What we learn in college rarely has anything to do with our ability to perform in a profit-driven business. The skills required to master a job are not those imparted by a college-level textbook. I know of no company that requires candidates for career advancement to sit in business-operated classrooms for 50 minutes a day, 14 weeks per term, and to take notes and read textbooks.

But there are lots of businesses that require this of entry-level jobseekers. “No college degree — no job.” They are screening for the ability to (1) be bored for five years and not quit, (2) stay sober during the week, and (3) take exams. Any job that requires (1) and (3) as prerequisites, other than for licensed professions (physicians, lawyers, CPAs, dentists, etc.), is a job you really ought to avoid. But maybe you’re stuck, or think you are. You want that college degree. How are you going to get it?

Night school at a junior college is one way. Or at least half the way. It could be worse. I went back to night school after I had my Ph.D. in order to get credits for a regulated profession. It’s not too difficult. But it takes time. I took 12 units in two terms. Had I gone to summer school, I could have picked up another six. At that pace, it would have taken me more than three years to earn my Associate of Arts degree.

There is another way: Take written exams to quiz out. The main ones are AP, CLEP, Dantes (military), and DSST. If you hustle, you could pass one a month. In two years, you’ve got the A.A. degree. There are a handful of colleges that offer a B.A. by examination. This is a good way to stay put and advance your career. It takes time, but it can be done. Is it worth it? That depends on your career choice, your employer, and your desire to prove that you are college material. If you think a college degree could help you, it’s wise to stick only your big toe back into the academic pool.

Don’t apply to a distant college, get accepted, quit your job, and enter as a full-time freshman. That’s a high-risk strategy that isn’t necessary. Instead, you can buy a used textbook on eBay for $20. You can study for a CLEP exam. You can buy a $20 CLEP how-to manual at the local bookstore or on Amazon. For $50, you can take a CLEP exam. See if you’re ready for prime time. If you pass, you just earned three college credits. If you don’t pass, you get a warning: “Brick wall ahead — consider alternative route.” (There is a book by a New York Times writer, Linda Lee, that shows there are alternatives to college.

It’s called “Success Without College” “Success Without College”. You might want to get yourself a copy.) The conventional ways through college are packaged in ready- to-use, meaning ready-to-sell, formats. But there are loopholes in every known man-made system. This includes higher education. If you look for loopholes, you’ll find them. If you use loopholes, you won’t have to pay retail.

And, as I always say, “Never pay retail.” Today’s Action Plan There comes a point in most careers when the jobholder says to himself/herself, “There’s more to life than this.” For some of these people, earning a college degree is a path worth taking. If you think you might be one of them, you’ll be interested in the new “How to Save a Fortune on College” program created by ETR and Gary North.