Today, America's best and brightest are graduating from college full of hopes and dreams, but cold, hard economic reality is rapidly crushing many of them. Record numbers of college graduates cannot find jobs. Hordes of others have been forced to take very low paying service jobs. At the same time, student loan debt loads have become more crushing than ever. The truth is that it is a really, really bad time to be a fresh college graduate. After spending tens of thousands of dollars and investing four (or more) years of their lives in an education, millions of recent college graduates find themselves waiting tables, tending bar, delivering pizzas and working next to (or subordinate to) people who never even went to college. At one time, a college degree was an automatic ticket to the middle class, but now for many Americans all a college degree means is crushing loan payments, sleepless nights and mind-numbing frustration.
We were always told that a college degree was supposed to prepare us for life in the real world. But today, the vast majority of college graduates end up moving back in with their parents.
In fact, a recent survey of last year's college graduates found that 80 percent moved right back home with their parents after graduation. That was up substantially from 63 percent in 2006.
So why are 80 percent of our college graduates moving back in with their parents?
Well, because they can't get jobs.
Two million recent college graduates are unemployed, and millions of others are working in fast food joints, at big box stores and in other very low paying service positions.
The stories that some recent college grads tell are so bizarre that they border on the unbelievable.
The Huffington Post recently featured the story of Kyle Daley - a highly qualified UCLA graduate who has been unemployed for 19 months....
I spent my time at UCLA preparing for the outside world. I had internships in congressional offices, political action committees, non-profits and even as a personal intern to a successful venture capitalist. These weren't the run-of-the-mill office internships; I worked in marketing, press relations, research and analysis. Additionally, the mayor and city council of my hometown appointed me to serve on two citywide governing bodies, the planning commission and the open government commission. I used to think that given my experience, finding work after graduation would be easy.
At this point, however, looking for a job is my job. I recently counted the number of job applications I have sent out over the past year -- it amounts to several hundred. I have tried to find part-time work at local stores or restaurants, only to be turned away. Apparently, having a college degree implies that I might bail out quickly when a better opportunity comes along.
The sad thing is that so many of these recent college graduates can't even get hired for retail jobs. A reader of my column on The American Dream blog named Kate is a recent college graduate who is experiencing the kind of extreme frustration that so many new graduates are going through right now....
I just graduated college in May… Moved to a new state and am now living with my boyfriend who should not and cannot continue to have to pay everything because i just plain can’t get a job.
I’m over qualified for retail survivor jobs… so I lie on my application. But then retail stores just plain don’t hire full time. So even if I could get a job as a cashier someplace… I’d only work enough hours to maybe pay for my car payment/ car insurance/ gas…. and my half of rent/electric and such is out of the question… not to mention charged to the limit credit cards from being unemployed and student loans that will hit in just a matter of months.
Any other jobs either don’t exist or they just ALL want 5 years professional experience…. which is impossible for someone who just graduated and has been working part time retail jobs since high school.
But it just isn't college graduates that are suffering. The truth is that this economic downturn has been hurting everyone....
*According to a recent Pew Research poll, approximately 37% of all Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 have either been unemployed or underemployed at some point during the recession.
*A different Pew Research survey found that 55 percent of American workers have experienced either unemployment, a pay decrease, a reduction in hours or an involuntary move to part-time work since the recession began.
*According to another survey, 28% of all U.S. households have at least one member that is currently looking for a full-time job.
For many U.S. households, the person looking for a job is a recent college graduate.
As you read this, hordes of highly qualified college grads are out applying for jobs as waitresses, pizza delivery men, grocery checkout clerks and hamburger flippers.
Even those who are able to get decent jobs are finding themselves disappointed. Starting salaries for college graduates across the United States are down in 2010.
But why shouldn't starting salaries be down? It is the employers that hold all the leverage - not the new graduates.
Meanwhile, many of these college graduates are graduating with crushing student debt loads. Today, many students borrow 10, 20 or even 30 thousands dollars per year while they are in school.
Federal statistics reveal that only 36 percent of the full-time students who began college in 2001 received a bachelor's degree within four years.
That is a very sad statistic.
The truth is that college courses have become so "dumbed down" in 2010 that even the family dog should be able to graduate from most U.S. colleges in four years.
Even after 6 years, that same group's graduation rate was still only 57 percent.
But getting back to the point, every single one of those years most college students are racking up huge amounts of debt.
Today, approximately two-thirds of all U.S. college students graduate with student loans.
Student loan balances of over $50,000 are becoming quite common among our college grads. In fact, some students end up with over $100,000 in student loan debt by the time they are done.
Unfortunately, student loan debt is some of the cruelest debt out there.
Federal bankruptcy law makes it nearly impossible to discharge student loan debts, and many recent grads end up with loan payments that absolutely devastate them financially at a time when they are struggling to get on their feet and make something of themselves.
So what do you think? Can you identify with this article? Are you a recent college graduate or do you have a recent college graduate living back at home? If so, please feel free to share your story in the comments section below....