Feature: Unemployment of College Graduates.By Tyler Daly
December 12, 2010
The economic struggles that the United States has been experiencing are now affecting areas of society that once seemed secure.
The age-old belief in a college degree automatically awarding its recipient with a successful starting job is not the rock-solid logic it once was. Unemployment rates for the entire United States have been climbing during this economic downturn, but many did not expect college graduates to take a hit.
Will Henry, a current Virginia Tech sophomore, is worried about the future outlook of the job market.
"I'm definitely concerned looking ahead, I'll have plenty of student loans to pay off and getting a job these days is no easy task," Henry said.
Many current college students find themselves in a similar position, with piling college loans and no absolute security they will have a job to pay them off come graduation.
According to College Board's website, the average cost of in-state tuition at public schools has risen to $7,605 a year. Out-of-state schools are around $12,000 a year. Neither of these figures includes additional expenses such as textbooks, meals and living expenses. These prices add up to a significant amount students must pay independently.
According to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administration, today's college graduates leave school with around $24,000 in debt. In addition, USA Today's Tali Arbel writes that the average starting salary of general studies graduates checks in at $37,000. Adding up those numbers creates a financial situation that most do not feel comfortable with.
"My cousin graduated from the University of Clemson in 2008 and he has still not found a job in his career field. He has around $30,000 in student loans but has not been able to pay them off," Henry said.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics releases unemployment rates monthly, and November's numbers have not shown much hope for change in the near future. The unemployment rate for college graduates with a Bachelor's degree or higher has now reached 5.1 percent, and is climbing.
This is an astounding number for the demographic of college graduates, considering that 5.1 percent was the national unemployment rate according to the BLS just five years ago.
So like many other college students, Henry has a demanding part-time job that he balances with his schoolwork to keep finances from getting out of control.
"It's challenging to balance work and studies. But it's either that or let the bills keep piling up," Henry said.
Many students then look to job fairs on campus, or career advice centers that universities offer for direction in finding a future job. However, they are often met with more of the same.
Jessica Caolo of Career Services at Virginia Tech notices a difference in the way students are approaching the job market.
"Students who come to talk with us lately often point out the economy and its current position as a major concern. They are definitely concerned about finding jobs," Caolo said.
She reminds us that there are certain areas of the economy that remain thriving for entry-level positions, however.
"I often direct students with concerns about the economy towards certain 'recession-proof' industries. Those include the technological, medical and educational industries. Areas like these thrive because there is a constant need to be filled there," says Caolo.
There have also been alternative effects as a result of the lack of jobs available to young adults. The high unemployment rate has caused the number of applicants to graduate programs to rise sharply, which has made acceptance into the programs much more competitive.
Apurva Aslekar, a 2009 graduate from Notre Dame, was rejected after he applied to several law schools. He believes the job market had a significant impact on his rejection to graduate schools.
Aslekar said, "As a result of the economic downturn, I think law and business schools had far more applicants than they usually observed. I believe the massive layoffs compelled many experienced individuals to go back to school for advanced degrees."
As Aslekar found out, it's difficult to match experience.
"It's possible that I was competing against people with 10 or more years of experience for acceptance to a graduate program. College students are going to have trouble matching that."
In the current economy, experience is being considered more and more by employers when hiring new employees. Employers are constantly looking for applicants with more hands-on experience, not necessarily just a bachelor's or master's degree.
"Literal knowledge learned in a classroom is regarded by employers as mostly theoretical," Aslekar said.
"Although theoretical knowledge is beneficial, it can influence on-the-job decisions and it can be difficult for some employers to guide graduates into performing tasks as expected," Aslekar added.
As a result, some companies are now creating programs to immediately train those coming into the workforce. Programs like AT&T's Business Sales Leadership Development, insert graduates directly into a system where they gain essential experience immediately to prepare them for their careers.
For students, it's a silver lining on the looming cloud of the "real world" that awaits them upon graduation.
Henry said, "It's good to know that some companies are making adjustments to battle this problem. But it's just a waiting game. Students just have to keep their nose to the grindstone and just hope things get better."