Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The College Conspiracy

I graduated from high school in 2004 with a 4.0 GPA. I was my schools Salutatorian, a Sterling Scholar runner up, and had completed more than 40 semester hours of college with the various AP classes I’d taken. By 2007, I’d completed two bachelor’s degrees of the science and economics variety, and by 2009, I’d completed a Master’s of Science degree. Growing up, I, like everyone else in my generation, was told that in order to secure a stable and prosperous life for myself, all I needed to do was to go to college, and I’d get a good job and make good money. In fact, I was reassured that I’d make at least a million dollars more than those individuals who do not attend college, so I was encouraged to take out tens of thousands of dollars of debt to do it, and society told me that I shouldn’t worry, because it was the best investment in myself that I could make. True, I had scholarships to help cover the costs, but they didn’t cover everything, and even though I worked part time, I still had to rack up thousands of dollars worth of credit card debt just to survive. When all was said and done, by the time I’d completed my Master’s degree, I was almost 50 thousand dollars in debt.

I’d been actively looking and applying for work even before I graduated. I sent out about countless applications during late 2008 and early 2009, and was never contacted for a single interview. Faced with no other option, my partner and I had to move back in with my parents while we both struggled to find work, and for over a year I settled for a handful of demeaning temporary jobs making $8 an hour -- when I was lucky enough to get them.

After almost two years of searching, I finally found a permanent job. I work for the state of Utah now, and though it’s, by today's standard, a 'good job', I barely make enough money to cover the debt that I accrued to get the job in the first place (and I absolutely despise it, too). I still have to live in my parents basement, and the concept of ever being able to afford my own apartment, let alone buy a house one day, or a vehicle that isn’t almost 20 years old is a depressingly laughable notion. Even worse, with all the budget cuts that State Governments, and our division has recently been hit with, I feel anything but confident that I’ll be able to hold on to this job for very long.   

What’s sad, though, is how much better off I am than most people in my generation, who have racked up even more debt than I have, and who have less education and even smaller prospects for landing a stable job that pays well enough to ever pay it off. As a nation, we’ve already endured a real estate crisis, a banking crisis, a credit card crisis, and the auto crisis, but the next great crisis on the horizon is the student loan crisis. When the future of America can’t get a job, afford to rent a place, buy a home, get a car, or pay their bills, and is burdened with tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt before they even get out of the gate, then where will be as a nation? We can ‘rebuild’ America all we want, but until we do something to address this massive problem overwhelming the foundation for our future, we will never be a prosperous nation again. 

This little documentary has some pretty interesting tidbits in it. Unfortunately, they spent a lot of time speculating about non-related things, and didn't tell the whole story of depressing statistics surrounding the bleak future of college graduates, and thus, the future of our country, but it's still worth a watch.

To help give fill in those gaps, here's a few more facts and statistics for you to consider.

About 1.65 million college students graduated in 2010. 

As of February 2010, over 8.4 million jobs had been lost in the "great recession". I haven't been able to find a comprehensive update of that, but I'm sure it's substantially higher now, especially as federal and state governments start to take the hits.
Employers added 244,000 jobs in April, the best month ever during the great recession. (Unfortunately, I couldn't find how many jobs were -lost- during this time to get -net- job creation). However, in order to fill the gap and get us back to pre-recession levels by 2015, we would have to add (I.E. NET) an average of about 350,000 jobs a month. And this is just to get us BACK to where we WERE. This does NOT account for keeping up with population growth and the demand for jobs... IE the roughly estimated 7.5 million college graduates that have (or will) enter the work force since 2007.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in March the national rate of unemployment in the United States was 9.7%, but for Americans younger than 25 it was 18.8%.  In fact, according to a Pew Research Center study, approximately 37% of all Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 have either been unemployed or underemployed at some point during the recession. Like all unemployment figures, this doesn't even account for college students that had never had a job.

One-third of all college graduates end up taking jobs that don't even require college degrees.

In the United States today, over 18,000 parking lot attendants have college degrees.

In the United States today, 317,000 waiters and waitresses have college degrees.

In the United States today, approximately 365,000 cashiers have college degrees.

In the United States today, 24.5 percent of all retail salespersons have a college degree.

I could keep going on, but I think I've made my point.

Do yourself, or your child, a favor. Don't fall victim to the next great American ponzi scheme. 

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