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We’re the Most Educated Young Adults in American History, Yet Many of Us Can’t Find Work

| July 31, 2013

Employ me. (Spakattacks)

Debt not pictured. (Spakattacks)

After graduating from high school, I had two choices: I could earn a college degree while shouldering debt, or struggle in a highly competitive job market without one. I chose the former. And I’m not the only one.

My generation is setting records in higher education. According to a 2012 Pew Research Center analysis, one in three of the country’s 25-to-29-year-olds has a bachelor’s degree — making that credential twice as common in the age group as it was in 1971.

We’re also setting records in underemployment. Nearly half of the recent college grads who have found work are in jobs that don’t require a four-year college degree.

We have the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed. So why aren’t we succeeding?

For one thing, there aren’t enough professional jobs available. Then, there are loans.

For the past two years, there was a 3.4 percent fixed and subsidized interest rate on Stafford loans, a form of student financial aid that more than 10 million students use each year. That rate doubled on July 1. Senate Democrats tried to reinstate the original rate a week later, but failed. Instead, Congress settled on a bipartisan agreement.

other-wordsUnder this new plan, the government will peg the interest rate for new Stafford loans to the financial market by setting it 2.05 percentage points over the 10-year Treasury note rate. As we embark on our careers, college grads who’ve taken out Stafford loans, like myself, could be responsible for paying as much as 8.25 percent, the maximum interest rate allowed by the new arrangement.

Total student debt has ballooned to nearly $1 trillion, nearly triple 2004 levels, according to a Federal Reserve Bank of New York report. If the new plan is enacted, just imagine how much student debt there will be in 2020.

Public opinion polls underscore our dilemma. More than 80 percent of Americans agree that it’s harder for us to find jobs than it was for our parents. But our problems don’t end there. About 70 percent believe that it’s also tougher for our generation to save for the future, pay for college, or buy a home.

So, what happens when we can’t find work and can’t pay our loans? When our parents have the means to help, we call home.

In 1993, 80 percent of parents expected their young children to be financially independent by the age of 22. Times — and the economy — have changed. Today, only 67 percent of parents feel this way. It’s become much more socially acceptable for young adults to remain financially dependent on their parents until the age of 25 or later. Sorry, Mom and Dad.

We’re the most educated generation in American history, yet many of us are unemployed or underemployed. And too many of us are still financially dependent on our parents.

We invest about four years of our lives and up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in our education, and then spend the next decade trying to get out of ever-increasing debt.

Next spring, I’ll be graduating again — this time with a bachelor’s degree. Instead of moving on to graduate school, I’ll be entering the workforce full-time. I need to take time off to work if I hope to pay off my loans in the near future. At this rate, I can’t afford to pay interest.

Colleen Teubner is a student at the George Washington University and an OtherWords intern at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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13 Responses for “We’re the Most Educated Young Adults in American History, Yet Many of Us Can’t Find Work”

  1. PCer says:

    Perhaps part of the problem is that we are educating our young people to work for OTHERS instead of how to be independent and work for THEMSELVES. Where is the creativity? Where is the entrepreneurial spirit? We need to produce more job creators and less job seekers.

  2. devrie says:

    I’ll keep saying it. College is expensive and was once considered the path toward “high” incomes. In my grandfather’s day, people lived in modest homes with modest new cars and some of the latest gadgets and could afford a vacation every other year or so, and the jobs they had are gone or undervalued. He was a factory worker. Women were call-switch operators, seamstresses, or secretaries. There were single women in those days too, and having one of those jobs afforded a modest, but doable lifestyle.

    What’s a secretary or a seamstress? You can be a customer-service call representative, but if you live in Florida, your pay is capped at around $9.00/hr. Can’t buy a small home and a modest car and care for two children on that income.

  3. fruitcake says:

    The first thing you have to do is move out of this area if your looking for a real job!

  4. Ayn Rand's Spleen says:

    Here’s something that all new or incoming college students need to know. Your college does not care about you as a person or as an eventual alumni, they only care about how much money you are spending at their institution, and that’s it. The people at FAFSA do not care about your ability to pay off your loans because they know that they will get paid – you cannot default away from debt owed to FAFSA or Sallie Mae. The government doesn’t care about you as eventual contributors to America the Great, it doesn’t care if your profession might lead you to curing cancer or discovering fundamental truths about the universe because you aren’t a wealthy campaign contributor or a lobbyist, which is why they were apathetic about student loan interest rates doubling. My advice is to spend money on your degree and once you get it, leave this country that does not care about you and find one where education is valued over administration and campaign donations. You won’t have to pay your loans off and you’ll bring advances to a place that actually deserves and values you.

  5. Gia says:

    You’ve got to be kidding. Take the computer power off & you’re lost.

  6. honestly says:

    This is a sad situation. We encourage education and tell them that their diploma means everything and then they go out in the work place and they are making just as much or less than a person that never went to college. The goverment needs to wake up an do something about this before the next generation ends up opening their eyes and realizing that they dont need an education to make ends meat and bettering yourself means nothing.

  7. Shocked, I tell you... says:

    You’re not setting records for unemployment, Colleen. This administration, this Congress are. The government shouldn’t be in the student loan business.

    They are killing our economy. Good article.

  8. Sgt Saber says:

    TRADES………not college degree’s is what will put America back to work. Learn a TRADE and live a good life. Stop using those smartphones every 2 minutes and actually act like your an adult. When speaking in public, use the polite mannerism like Yes Sir or No Sir, Yes Maam, or No Maam. Show RESPECT and receive it back. This Me, me ,me , i want it now America is why we are now corrupt and failing as a country !

  9. Sherry Epley says:

    Unfortunately, most of our high paying (and low paying) jobs have been “outsourced” to people in 3rd world countries with a much lower cost of living, at much lower costs. President Obama, no government leader, can fix this problem. All government jobs add to the deficit. We need to somehow stop the horrific greed of “private” business owners and managers. . . who are pocketing record profits. . . while selling the future of the USA down the river. Until US companies are again willing to invest in the USA and hire locally, we will continue to have a failing job market.

    In the mean time. . . I would recommend any ambitious, educated person look into the mining industry in Australia. They are crying for workers. . . from geological engineers to laborers. . . the wages are great. . . and they are a first world, up and coming country.

  10. Geezer says:

    Walmart and McDonald’s are hiring!
    These are what Florida calls “jobs.”

    ps: Forgot to mention Burger King. Sorry.

  11. Shell says:

    Because you didn’t go to a college or university to get an *education* (although you say and think you did), you went to get training in how to do a job and paid only enough attention to anything and everything else taught to pass them, so that when you don’t get the job you were trained for, you’re completely at a loss as to what to do. An education informs your life, training teaches you how to do one thing.

  12. Outsider says:

    The only degrees worth investing the money in these days are engineering, medical and IT. If you bought the bullshit that a political science degree was the key to a good paying job that was your fault. I agree that the universities need a revenue stream, and that’s why they’ve come up with a bunch of useless programs like “women’s studies.” The government aid programs simply make more money available to pay for useless educations and therefore increase the cost of a degree, and allow professors and administrators to earn bloated salaries at the expense of the kids’ futures. Leaving this area is good advice as well; my brother-in-law just left for Texas where he will double his pay for the same work.

  13. tulip says:

    I think we also have too many students coming from over seas, getting educated and taking jobs that should have gone to the American students.

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