As college grads don the caps and gowns for their commencement exercises this month, they’ll be facing a painfully difficult job market. Recently, it was reported widely that one out of two recent college graduates are either without a job or are underemployed. Half of those who walked across the stage and received their diploma last year are just as liking to be waiting tables as working in their field of study.
To make matters worse, student loan debt rose to more than $1 trillion this year. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, students added $117 billion in new loans last year alone. So, the grads who don’t have full-time jobs have significant college loans to pay off and no means with which to do it. With college costs up 130 percent during the past 20 years and the current debt and employment situation spiraling upward, is the American dream of a college education the next bubble to burst?
Historically, the expectation was if you graduated from college, you were going to be successful. It does still hold true that college grads (on average) make more during their lifetimes than non-college grads, but the current situation calls for some serious action.
First, as college costs continue to skyrocket, it’s imperative that parents develop a college savings strategy for your children. Saving even a small percentage can save thousands in student loan interest down the road. Second, if your child shows an interest in a specific field at a young age, there are many internship and job shadowing programs available for high school age children.
Finally, we have to change the culture that a college degree entitles you to a career. Recent college grads are being passed over for positions not because they don’t have a high GPA and a degree from a prestigious university; they are being beaten out by applicants with more work experience. As tempting as it is to take a summer school class to ease the course load during the year, looking for an unpaid internship in your field of study is a better bet.
As the economy continues to recover from the Great Recession, job growth will undoubtedly improve. Competition is fierce as there are fewer jobs and more applicants in the U.S. workplace. Students and their parents need to understand the current circumstances and be proactive to avoid having a diploma, massive debt and part-time job.