Not long ago, a bachelor’s degree was considered a ticket to the middle class and a shield against the worst blows of a difficult economy and a tough job market. Not anymore, or, at least, not right now.
We are looking at the specter of a Lost Generation of young adults who, through no fault of their own, are entering a labor market with a severe shortage of decent entry-level jobs.
Consider these three news analyses:
Recession’s impact on college grads
Chris Isidore, writing for CNNMoney.com (via Yahoo!, link here), reports on the brutal effects of the recession on newly-minted college graduates:
About 60% of recent graduates have not been able to find a full-time job in their chosen profession, according to job placement firm Adecco.
And the lack of steady income can also delay the start of their lives as independent adults. About a third of recent graduates are still living with their parents, Adecco found, with 17% saying they are financially dependent on their parents. Almost one in four say they are in debt.
…[T]hose already hurt by the recession might not bounce back so quickly.
According to one study performed by Till von Wachter, an economics professor at Columbia University, the drag on income lasts for 10 years, on average.
Is college worth it?
Catherine Rampell, writing for the New York Times (link here), revisits the recurring question of whether college is worth the time and expense:
Now evidence is emerging that the damage wrought by the sour economy is more widespread than just a few careers led astray or postponed. Even for college graduates — the people who were most protected from the slings and arrows of recession — the outlook is rather bleak.
Employment rates for new college graduates have fallen sharply in the last two years, as have starting salaries for those who can find work. What’s more, only half of the jobs landed by these new graduates even require a college degree, reviving debates about whether higher education is “worth it” after all.
The next huge bubble to burst?
Along with the scarcity of jobs, new graduates are leaving college with unprecedented levels of student loan debt. Sarah Jaffe, writing for AlterNet (link here), asks if student loan repayment default rates are the next bubble to burst:
Currently, private as well as government-issued and guaranteed loans will stick with you even through bankruptcy proceedings, saddling far too many graduates with debt for life.
Still, bankruptcy reform is hardly a solution to the problems at hand. Imagine 18 percent of college graduates declaring bankruptcy when they can’t find a job, upon graduation, that allows them to make payments on their loans?
Small wonder that many are calling the student loan crisis a bubble possibly worse than the credit card or housing bubbles.
We need a student movement
Jaffe and others aptly raise the need for student activism to provide the necessary political punch to address this burgeoning crisis.
I see no other alternative. Many Baby Boomers may have cut their teeth on political activism, but I do not see this generation rising to help; instead, too many of them are figuring out how to finance their retirements and health care. Instead, it will be up to the younger folks to stand up for themselves.