Throughout my childhood, I remember my parents saying, “You have to go to college to get a good job.” Today, in the midst of an unstable economy and marked recession, it seems that just going to college might not be enough to obtain gainful employment.
According to this New York Times article, recent college graduates are being negatively influenced by the recession as they struggle to find jobs that pay high enough salaries to allow them to move out of their parents’ homes, pay off student loans, and gain financial independence. As a 22-year-old planning to graduate from college in 10 days, it looks like I’m going to be one of those hard-up young professionals. Gulp.
While many of my classmates are facing the same anxieties as I am, others feel secure about their futures. Students majoring in career-specific subjects such as education and nursing are much more likely to find salaried jobs after graduation, as they already possess skill sets necessary for those careers.
Those of us majoring in the humanities are not so lucky, as our liberal arts educations that promoted critical thinking and communication skills require more effort to mesh with the corporate world. At my school, jokes abound about resorting to subsistence hunting and gathering, living in cardboard boxes and, worst of all, moving back in with our parents.
Adding to the financial pressure faced by many young graduates is the lingering cost of a college education. Today I completed my required Stafford loan exit counseling session, which consisted of thirty minutes of reading too-small text on my laptop screen and taking required quizzes after every section of dense material.
How am I supposed to remember whether FFEL stands for Federal Family Education Loan or Friends Family Educational Liability? Or whether interest accrues on my subsidized loans during the six-month grace period after I graduate? Understanding the terminology is only the beginning — soon I’ll have to come up with the money to pay these pesky subsidized loans that allowed me to major in English and gain tons of untransferable skills in the first place.
Many students are avoiding the issue by enrolling in graduate programs, allowing them to wait out the economic slump and defer the payment of their loans. The problem is that many of them are taking out more loans in order to pay for their post-undergrad education.
This article explores the impact of college loans (which recently outpaced credit card debt for the first time) on recent graduates. The cost of higher education is increasing exponentially, a trend that I got to experience firsthand as my tuition went up $8,000 in four years.
It’s possible that I will still be paying off college debt when I have kids — so, instead of repeating what my parents said to me: “You have to go to college to get a good job,” my mantra will be more like, “You have to become a movie star or an outstanding athlete or a computer genius to get a good job.”
Sorry, future children. I guess a bachelor’s degree just isn’t what it used to be.
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