College: worth the risk?

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The other day a Washington Post article stated that recessions don’t usually negatively affect college graduates, but 2008 stood as the year with the highest number of unemployed college graduates since The Bureau of Labor and Statistics began keeping tabs on these trends in 1970.

With tuition climbing and financial aid debt mounting, it’s easy for the wayward student to wonder: Is college worth the risk or is it better to just find a job to pay the bills?

Although time-intensive and expensive, college is still worth the risk. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics shows that in December 2008, the unemployment rate of college graduates was only 3.2 percent, compared with the overall unemployment rate of 7.2 percent.

The job market has definitely changed from when our parents went to college. When they graduated with a bachelor’s degree, they were practically guaranteed a skilled job. But today’s employers have more applicants to choose from, and many of them have bachelor’s degrees.

To even be considered, applicants often need a bachelor’s degree. Then, experience is what sets applicants apart. This often means interning or volunteering, basically working for free for a while, which is always difficult and especially hard during an economic recession.

Students shouldn’t have to work for free, but as long as employers have the upper hand there aren’t many options left. There are few paying, experience-gathering positions such as apprenticeships and assistant titles, but applicants who have experience usually snatch these up quickly.

What’s really sad is how badly President Bush screwed up the country and how we allowed this to happen. In 2000, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics wrote an optimistic forecast for 2008. With the number of baby boomers due to retire, many college-level jobs would open up. Ah, if only.

With the dismal economy, the reality was grimmer as many baby boomers were unable to retire. Low stocks means that their IRAs and 401Ks are down, so baby boomers are waiting for the economy to improve before college graduates can takeover their jobs.

Americans have heaped a lot of hope and faith onto the notion that President-elect Barack Obama can cure the economic crisis. In a recent press release, it was stated that Obama’s team is actively working on an investment and recovery program to create millions of well-paying jobs. His optimism is contagious and will hopefully be fruitful.

Hopefully Obama’s optimistic plans prevail over The Economist‘s pessimistic forecast. Analyzing 14 “severe” banking busts, including the Great Depression of the 1930s, Spain in the late 1970s, Norway in 1987 and Finland, Japan and Sweden in the early 1990s, The Economist predicts that it will take approximately five years for the economy to fully turn around.

In the meantime, take control of your own destiny. Although the ride might be bumpy, college is worth it in the long haul. Meet with career counselors to maximize your education and hiring eligibility.

When I meet with counselors, they often remark that students often don’t come visit them until their last term before graduation. Although later is better than never, these students miss out on important opportunities to improve their futures.

This month Forbes Magazine released an updated version of 200 Best Jobs for College Graduates. The book analyzes the best jobs available to students graduating this year through 2016, based off the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Projections and Training Data Report.

If your main concern is finding a well-paying job after college, this book may be a good route to find advice. Actuaries, paralegals, school counselors, computer support specialists and cost estimators are just some of the recommended jobs.

Otherwise cross your fingers in hope of an economic upswing and, if all else fails, prepare yourself for a few more years in the classroom.

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