Thursday, February 20, 2020

More on the Struggles of College Graduates

Data from the New York Fed confirms the difficulties college graduates have moving into careers:
The unemployment rate for young college graduates exceeds that of the general population, and about 41 percent of recent college graduates -- and 33.8 percent of all college graduates -- are underemployed in that they are working in jobs that don't require a college degree.
In December the unemployment rate for college grads 22 to 27 was 3.9%, compared to 3.6% for the country as a whole. Which is not really a big deal, and better than the 6.5% rate for 22-27-year-olds without a degree. People with the drive to finish college can almost all find some kind of work. But the transition to adulthood remains hard:
"It's maybe a little bit counterintuitive, but it’s not particularly surprising and the numbers have been pretty consistent for years," said David Soo, the chief of staff at Jobs for the Future. . . . "It's just that young people coming out of school often need a couple of years to get a foothold in the labor market, and then you start to see their unemployment and underemployment numbers come down. An investment in college is still the best one out there."


JustPeachy said...

My eldest is 8. I'm already carefully indoctrinating the kids about college: they're smart kids, and they can go if they want, but they need a skilled trade in their toolboxes first, to pay their way through, and to support a family if that degree in philosophy or French Literature can't be turned into a profession. It's best to be both, but you can have a good life being useful and uneducated. Educated and useless doesn't work so well.

My husband and I both wish our parents had drilled us on that, instead of harping on "well gosh, you're so smart of course you'll go to college and get a good job! Just do well in school!" That's advice that needs to go on the dung-heap forever. I dropped out of my junior year of college (with a 3.8 GPA), when I realized I'd have to go into debt to finish a degree that I hated, that would lead only to jobs I did not want. Some timely advice could have saved me three years and a heap of dollars. I should have taken a "gap year" or three to work a grunt job in a field that interested me. It might've led to a career, or I might've done what I did anyway: get married, and drop out of the workforce to raise kids. I'd have been on better footing either way.

Husband is now, in his thirties, long after completing that useless BA with honors (and working a whole series of jobs that did not require it), doing a 2-year vocational program that will end in a decent job that he likes, and that there is considerable demand for. In a right world, he could have done that program fresh out of high school, had a decent job, and then done the BA for the pure holy love of Shakespeare, if he wanted.

Nobody tells you that when you're in high school and you need to hear it. Why?

G. Verloren said...


Nobody tells you that when you're in high school and you need to hear it. Why?

Because the college and university system in this country is no longer primarily concerned with educating citizens - it is primarily concerned with making money.

Modern schools don't give a damn what happens to a student - they just want to sell diplomas. A single school will happily hand out hundreds of degrees every year in a field or industry that they know for a fact only creates a half dozen new job openings annually. They won't breathe a word of that fact to their students, of course, because why risk them dropping out and not paying full tuition?

You can see this mentality everywhere. Mandatory on-campus housing. The naked price gouging of college textbooks and school bookstores. Guidance counselors who reflexively encourage every single student to complete their degree no matter what and wave aside concerns of burnout, financial burden, lack of aptitude, et cetera.

It has become a predatory system, centered wholly around extracting "rent" and maximize profits. Just like our medical system. Just like our prison system. Our major institutions don't exist for the betterment of society, they exist for the enrichment of those who operate them.

David said...


If what you say is true, why are most colleges in financial trouble, many on the verge of bankruptcy, and quite a few already closed?

As for useless degrees, colleges don't force anyone to choose their major. If people choose useless subjects, it's because they love them, or think they love them. If some people love trades and working with their hands, others love reading old books. Letting them do so is not a form of oppression.

As John posted a while back, a major reason things like medicine and college are so expensive is because no one has figured out a way to use automation and/or management science to force efficiencies into the system, while still accomplishing the system's goals.

JustPeachy said...

"Letting them do so is not a form of oppression."

Of course not. But telling them that getting a degree is the ticket to financial success, without specifying which degrees that applies to, is a very big lie. Compounding this by offering enormous student loans to nearly anyone who asks, regardless of what they're studying... may in fact be a form of oppression.

David said...


If a student wants to major in the humanities, and their humanities professors don't speak to them *several times* about the real-world hazards of such a course, then IMHO those profs are guilty of professional malpractice.

My impression is that the main force pushing students to go to college when they don't want to go is parents. I've met many students who say quite forthrightly that they aren't doing well because they don't want to be there, and their parents are making them go. Many of them would rather work outdoors or in the parents' own business (often a restaurant or contracting-type business). I respect their self-knowledge and wish they could fulfill their desires and I tell them so--but I don't feel in a position to tell them to defy their parents.

I don't know the parents, so I can't speak to their motives. That said, I'll guess (:-)) at one thing, related to the topic of the medieval thread we're also conversing on. I imagine many of the parents feel they've been slighted because they didn't go to college--many of my students are first generation college students--and they don't want that for their children. I think such slighting is real, common, and horrible, and a significant social problem in a society that certainly has a lot of unhappy college students, probably has too many college grads and not enough skilled workers, and where, we are told, certain skilled trades are probably going to be the last things automated. The only thing I can see to do is try not to act in that slighting manner, which is pretty lame as a solution, I know (bless my heart).

All that said, I love reading old books and working with students, and I feel very privileged that I've gotten to spend my working life doing those things (even if only as essentially a permanent adjunct).

JustPeachy said...


4-8 years of your life, and many thousands of dollars of front-loaded costs, for an education you don't want and won't use for anything, seems like an exorbitant price for not having well-dressed women say "bless your heart" at you!

Those are years someone could have been finding a spouse, having two or three kids (while still young enough to keep up!), building a business... and money that could have bought a house for that family! And instead, they're spending it for this thing... and then delaying the family and house even longer because they're trapped in a job they hate until they pay off the loans. It's so sad! For what? A class marker!

I freely admit my bias: I'm congenitally blind to social hierarchy and the maneuverings related to it. I'm aware of it, but only on an intellectual level, not a visceral one. When I get subtly insulted, I can often tell that *something odd just happened* but it takes hours of post-mortem analysis to figure out exactly *what*. And at that point it's like "well really, what an odd thing to do! What sort of odd insecurity must that person have, to have prompted it?"

David said...


I think I was trying to understand the parents' motives, rather than to advocate for them.

JustPeachy said...

Ah, apologies if I misread you!