What Does A College Degree Really Get You In 2012?

Are degrees worth it?When Chelsea Schubart graduated from the University of Rhode Island last year, she seemed poised for success. She had racked up several academic honors, internships, and degrees in elementary education and psychology.

But a year later, the 23-year-old resident is working two part-time jobs, one of them at her mother's DJ-karaoke company. She also lives with her parents in New Jersey. And she counts herself lucky.

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"The jobs are scarce," says Schubart, whose other part-time job is as as a school aide in New Jersey. Neither of her gigs provides her with medical benefits. "No one I know has a full-time job in their chosen field."

In fact, recent college grads are facing one of the most punishing job markets in recent history. According to a survey released Thursday by Rutgers, just 51 percent of all those who have graduated college since 2006 are working in full-time jobs. The study was compiled from 444 graduates from across the country. One in ten of them are completely out of work and are not enrolled in any further schooling.

The goal of achieving financial independence remains out of reach for many college graduates, but the outlook is far more grim for the classes that have graduated after Lehman Brothers went bust in September 2008 and the economy collapsed. Among the Class of 2009, 2010 and 2011, 57 percent are still getting financial help from their family or someone else to meet basic daily needs.

The figure stood at 39 percent for the classes of 2006 and 2007.

Adding to the burdens of basic daily needs is the challenge of paying off student debt. As the study notes, in 2010 collective student loan debt surpassed $1 trillion, as well the money Americans owed in credit debt. At their graduation, 55 percent of the graduates owed an average of $20,000 to pay off their education.

The authors of the study say the report forces a reassessment on how Americans approach higher education.

"It's definitely still worth it," says Carl Van Horn, a professor of public policy at Rutgers and the Director of the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, which put together the study. "The return on investment is somewhere between three-quarters of a million dollars to $1.5 million dollars over a lifetime. The issue people need to think about is the cost of the university I am going to. What we need is informed choice."

For her part, Schubart doesn't think her education was a waste. In fact, she is planning to pursue a graduate degree, having been accepted to five-year doctoral program in psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.

As an undergrad, she says, "I was always doing research jobs with professors or subbing in schools so I could take advantage of the job market. I think like a teacher, so I plan ahead."


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Filed under: Social Media, College
Dan Fastenberg

Dan Fastenberg

Associate Editor

Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.

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Troy Allen

Blue collar skill training is where it's at...a skill that someone is willing to PAY for. HVAC is a great field with very low overhead. If you have common sense a logic you can work for yourself. Initiative and drive are a must to must for success.....with out it you live in your parents basement....with it, they live in yours.

April 16 2014 at 6:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lee

There should be more vocational high schools offered for those who can't afford to go to a four year college. A good option is starting out at your local community college. More affordable also.

May 19 2012 at 12:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Happy shoping

I know college grads from last year that have not gotten a job. With your college degree you will understand what the BS really means. You can say, "Want fries with that?" just as proficient as a high school drop out!

Seriously, If you go to the FREE PUBLIC LIBRARY ask the librarian for a recorded presentation “The Strangest Secret” by Earl Nightingale. It is a good start. If you get no value out of that recording you need mentoring.

If you feel like you spent a lot of money and have nothing of value to offer employers? That is a common statement I heard that from many new grads that I mentored over 30 years as a Paralegal.

Before you have a pity party and give up, contact me at Mayoaid@aol.com. Why should you contact me? I had three successful businesses and as a paralegal I counseled and saved many other businesses that were faltering. That was my value. Mentoring is FREE. If I ask you for money you can lose my e-mail address.

May 11 2012 at 5:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tncsf

Here is the cold reality of attaining a college degree in 2012:

1. You have a 25% greater of being/becoming an alcoholic or binge drinker

2. You have a 51% chance of being and remaining unemployed/underemployed for at least the next 2 years from date of graduation

3. You are probably deeply in debt with at least $30K in student loans

4. You wasted the last 4 (or more) years pursing a course of study that has little or no value in the real world marketplace and similarly sacrificed 4 (or more) years of work experience and income (i.e., opportunity cost)

5. You have an 80% chance of still needing to live with your parents 5 years from now

Congratulations Class of 2012!

May 11 2012 at 3:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
welch995

Debt lol

May 11 2012 at 2:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mark Mason

I'm sure your degree will come into play as soon as we clime out of this fix the country has gotten into. In the mean time do what ever you can to make the bills and stay a float. Try to stay current in the degree that you have chosen and be flexable. Your time just hasn't got here yet, but that's no reason to throw in the towel. DO WHAT YOU HAVE TO TO GET BY, we won't stay down for ever.

May 11 2012 at 2:48 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
aworld520

AS LONG AS obama IN OFFICE NOTHING.

May 11 2012 at 2:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
victorypest

Learn a trade, be good at what you do, be aggresive, stay positive, work hard, treat your clients as though nothing as matters but them, and dont worry about that damn piece of paper. College is overrated in 2012.

May 11 2012 at 2:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Alan

I am a recent grad as well - I think Chelsea's problem is it is a degree in Psych - who will hire a Psych major with only a bachelor's degree? No one apparently. - btw I majored in Econ and went from intern to employee on graduation - IT services at big blue.

May 11 2012 at 1:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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