Question for Believers in the Human Capital Theory of Education

The human capital theory of higher education generally believe in two premises, though in principle one can believe in one and not the other:

P1: The main reason employers generally prefer to hire college graduates is because of knowledge gained in college.

P2: The main reason employers prefer some schools to others is because those schools are better at giving their students knowledge.

For anyone who believes in one or both premises: how do you explain the fact that job applicants are advised to not include their GPAs on their resumes unless they are recent graduates:

You should also remove a GPA from you resume if you have more than five years of professional experience. “If you’ve been working for five years, unless it’s a 4.0, don’t bother,” advises Elaine Varelas, managing partner at career consulting firm Keystone Partners. Smith-Proulx notes that this “indicator wanes as the candidate proves themselves in the workforce during later years of their career.”

In other words, as you acquire additional work experience, your GPA diminishes in importance and becomes less relevant.

I see three explanations:

1. Advice such as that above is wrong, and thus there is no paradox.

2. GPA is an unreliable indication of how much a student learned in the college. Yet, whether you graduated from college and where you went to college still matters, you aren’t advised to leave that out. GPA itself determines college graduation when it’s at the low end. So, the difference between an F and a C is a meaningful indication of knowledge gained in the college, while the difference between a C and an A is not a meaningful indication of knowledge gained in the college.

3. Both the difference between an F and a C and a C and an A are meaningful indications of knowledge gained in the college, but employers only care about knowledge below a “floor” indicated by a C, above which the additional knowledge is not relevant to the workplace. This doesn’t fit with P2, as if the additional knowledge gained by an A student at a low-ranked college over a C student at the same college is not relevant, one sees little reason to favor a C student at a high-ranked college over the C student at a low-ranked college.

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