The Great Recession. Despite lasting less than two years, its residual effects are still being felt by many almost 10 years later—including college and university graduates trying to find employment. For young college graduates, the unemployment rate is currently slightly higher now (5.6 percent) than in 2007 (5.5 percent), while the underemployment rate shot up to 12.6 percent, compared with 9.6 percent in 2007.
Despite these employment challenges, most college graduates remain positive and believe their efforts will pay off eventually. In fact, per a Pew Research Center survey, over 60 percent of Millennials feel their degree has paid off so far. So, does the unemployment some of these grads face mean they wasted time and money getting their degree? Not necessarily.
The Case for a College Degree
Even with the higher unemployment numbers, college grads still fare better overall in the job market than those with only a high school diploma. The Pew Research Center analyzed 2010 Census Bureau data and learned that the typical adult with just a bachelor’s degree will earn $1.42 million over a 40-year career, which breaks down to $650,000 more than someone with only a high school degree. And factoring in the cost of college and lost income while students are school, only lessens the lifetime difference by $100,000. To further support the benefits of having some form of a degree, a Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce study indicates that the lifetime earnings of an individual with a two-year certificate or associate degree is still higher than that of those with only a high school degree. And not surprisingly, the lifetime value of a doctorate degree is even much greater. All this means is that in order for grads to believe their diploma was worth the cost and has value, they need to look at the long-term investment dividends it will yield them instead of focusing solely on the short-term benefits.
Increasing the Chances of Employment
If students are making the financial investment to receive a degree, then colleges and universities need to also engage and invest in their students’ success so that they’ll feel more confident heading into an often uncertain workforce. This can be achieved through career services, competency-based courses, and cooperative education programs. The Rochester Institute of Technology in New York is a good example. They use a cooperative education program that yearly pairs more than 3,000 students with work assignments at thousands of companies. “The program bolsters students’ employability, school president Bill Destler says, because potential employers know the students have real work experience.”
It is natural for students who graduate from schools with higher tuition costs and hefty student debt to feel that the school perceived value fell short if they find themselves unemployed. That is why colleges and universities need to continue to look for other ways, such as stronger competency-based programs, to make postsecondary education more affordable. Because the fact remains that in the long run, and as the economy continues to get stronger, a college degree is still worth having.
Share with us in the comments what your institution is doing to ensure students’ long-term success.
Photo Courtesy of: OD Newsroom