A new national survey by The John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University found that a
large percentage of recent college graduates are far from a secure career path
with a full time job and benefits.
The report, Chasing the American Dream: Recent College Graduates and the Great
Recession, reflects the results of interviews with 444 graduates of
four-year colleges and universities from the classes of 2006 through 2011.
The report documents the difficulties young
people encountered as they entered a labor market that eventually plunged into
a deep recession in 2008. Three in four were able to find at least one
full-time job since graduation. But at the time of the survey in April, only 51
percent were working full time, 20 percent were attending graduate or
professional school and 12 percent were either unemployed or employed part time
and looking for full-time work.
“Students who graduated during the past
several years are facing historic obstacles in achieving the foundations of the
American dream and express low expectations for their future prosperity,” said
Carl Van Horn, Professor and Director of the Heldrich Center and a co-author of
the study. “The resilience of this year’s and recent college graduates are
being tested as they struggle with student debt, a slow job market that offers
few toe-holds in their chosen careers, and nagging fears about a lack of
preparation for global labor market competition.”
College graduates who obtained their
first job during the recession in 2009-2011 earned 10 percent less in their starting
salaries compared to those who entered the workforce in 2006 and 2007 — $27,000
versus $30,000. Men earned an average of $30,000 compared with $28,000 for
The report offered some good news for students
who completed internships during college. Those graduates earned nearly 15
percent more on average than those who did not. Graduates who completed
internships also felt better prepared in certain skills areas, such as
leadership, written and verbal communications, and quantitative skills.
Among those who are now employed, the
median salary for jobs that require a four-year degree is $37,750 compared to
$32,000 for jobs that do not require a four-year degree.
Given their experiences — with 4 in 10
working in jobs that did not require a four-year degree — it is understandable
that almost two-thirds either think they will need more education or have
already gone back to school.
Young college graduates are also
insecure about their preparation for a competitive workforce. Half of them feel
they are likely less well prepared for the world of work than was the
generation before them.
The graduates’ employment struggles and
modest earnings are also affecting both their ability to pay off the debts they
incurred to finance their college education — a median of $18,690 at public
colleges and $24,460 at private colleges — and influence their personal
More than one in four are living with
their parents or family members to save money and significant numbers of recent
college graduates are delaying major purchases, putting offer their graduate
education, taking extra jobs to supplement their income, and even delaying
marriage. Many recent graduates who move out from their parents homes continue receive
family support for housing, food, healthcare, college loan repayments, and car
payments, the survey found.
“The cream of the crop of America’s
youth, graduates of four-year colleges and universities, believe the American
dream of upward mobility may have stopped with them,” commented Cliff Zukin,
Professor and co-author of the study. “Young, well-educated people, who are
typically optimistic about their futures, are expressing doubt in another
cornerstone of the American dream — that each generation can enjoy more
prosperity than the one that came before it.”
The John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development is based at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, at Rutgers University. It is one of the nation’s leading university-based research and policy centers dedicated to raising the effectiveness of the American workplace through improved workforce education, placement, and training. The Center identifies innovative workforce practices and practical policy changes that can help Americans receive the education and training they need to be productive and prosperous in a global knowledge economy.
Media Contact: Carl Van Horn
(732) 932-4100 ext. 6305