It’s A Great Time To Be A New College Graduate: High Unemployment, Crappy Service Jobs And Crippling Student Loan Debt

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.

Very sad.

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….

College Students This Is Your Future: High Unemployment And Student Loan Hell

Hundreds of thousands of college students all over the United States have just graduated and are getting ready for their first taste of the real world.  Unfortunately for them, the real world is not always easy and it is not always fair.  In fact, for large numbers of recent college graduates, the transition to a world of high unemployment, brutal student loan payments and lowered expectations can be extremely sobering.  But the truth is that we have taught these young people to have a completely unrealistic view of the future.  We have told them to take out gigantic student loans without worrying about how they are going to pay them back, we have told them that if they get good grades and do everything “right” that the system will reward them with secure, fulfilling careers, and we have made high school and college so “soft and cushy” that most of these young Americans find that they don’t have the discipline and the work ethic to make it when they actually do get out into society.

So needless to say, the first six months after graduation can be a complete shock for many college graduates.

In a piece recently published on MSN Money, journalist Joe Queenan described the tough environment that 2010 college graduates are being thrown into as they enter the real world….

They will enter an economy where roughly 17% of people aged 20 through 24 do not have a job, and where two million college graduates are unemployed. They will enter a world where they will compete tooth and nail for jobs as waitresses, pizza delivery men, file clerks, bouncers, trainee busboys, assistant baristas, interns at bodegas.

But waiting tables, delivering pizzas or greeting customers at the local Wal-Mart is not what most college graduates signed up for when they invested tens of thousands of dollars and four years (if not longer) of their lives in an education.

Unfortunately, that is where our economy is at today.

“Good jobs” are very few and far between and those freshly graduating from college are finding themselves suddenly thrust into an extremely competitive job market.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in March the national rate of unemployment in the U.S. was 9.7%, but for Americans younger than 25 years of age it was 18.8%.

In fact, according to a recent 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 this recession.

But what makes things even worse for college graduates is that so many of them are coming out of school with absolutely crushing student debt loads.

Today, approximately two-thirds of all U.S. college students graduate with student loans.

But it isn’t just that they have student loans.  The loan balances that many of these students are graduating with these days are absolutely obscene.

The Project on Student Debt estimates that 206,000 U.S. college students graduated with more than $40,000 in student loan debt in 2008.  Using 2008 dollars as a baseline, that represents a ninefold increase over the number of students graduating with that amount of debt in 1996.

Most college students don’t think much about all of the debt that they are accumulating while they are in school.

But once they get out, the sudden realization that they have gotten themselves into student loan payments that they cannot possibly handle can be completely demoralizing.

The New York Times recently profiled Cortney Munna – a recent college graduate who has not been able to get a “good job” and who now finds herself in student loan hell.  She recently told the New York Times that she would be more than glad to give back her education if she could just get out of all this debt….

“I don’t want to spend the rest of my life slaving away to pay for an education I got for four years and would happily give back.”

In recent years, millions of young college graduates have found that the “great education” that they thought they were getting actually doesn’t get them very far at all in the real world.

In fact, they often find themselves taking jobs where they work right next to other people their age who never even went to college.

So a lot of young college graduates find themselves wishing that they could just “return” their education and get all that money back.

But there is no walking away from student loan debt.

The truth is that federal bankruptcy law makes it nearly impossible to discharge student loan debts.

Basically, once you get into student loan hell there is no escape.

So now we have hundreds of thousands of college graduates that can’t get good jobs and that have brutal student loan payments that they can’t possibly handle.

No wonder so many of them seem so angry and depressed.

But the funny thing is that so many that are still in college are so unbelievably optimistic about the future.

Edwin Koc, director of research for the National Association of Colleges and Employers says that those approaching college graduation are an extremely confident bunch….

“Over 90 percent think they have a perfect résumé. The percentage who think they will have a job in hand three months after graduation is now 57 percent. They’re still supremely confident in themselves.”

So have we done a good job of teaching them to have confidence in themselves or have we done them a disservice by allowing so many of them to live in complete denial?

The truth is that the U.S. economy is in the process of collapsing, and we need to prepare our young people for the tough times that are ahead.  Life is going to require an extreme amount of hard work and discipline in the years ahead, and unfortunately those qualities are not in great supply among young Americans right now.

Actually, the “real world” is not going to be getting easier for any of us.  We are all going to require an attitude adjustment if we are going to successfully navigate the difficult times that are coming.  So let’s not be too hard on new college graduates and other young Americans.  The truth is that the vast majority of us are “soft” at least to some degree because of the decadent society in which we live.  Let’s just hope that somehow we can all find enough inner strength to endure the great challenges that are going to confront us in the years ahead.

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