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Adviser parallels college degrees and long-term investments

Published: Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 02:01


Thomas Storey

It is a nightmare that plagues the dreams of many Texas A&M students. Work — or rather the lack of it, in an economy teetering close to another recession — may be affecting the lives of undergraduates and turning a bad dream into a waking reality for graduates.

Students across the country are facing increased difficulty in finding employment after college, a trend that has been prevalent since the beginning of the economic recession in 2006. Recent college graduates are fighting for jobs against a shrinking workforce.

Josh Armstrong, Class of 2012, graduated last May with a Bachelor of Science degree and is currently unemployed. Life after graduation for Armstrong is filled with an air of uncertainty.

“Life is just at a different pace now,” Armstrong said. “It’s you trying to find out what you want to do. You wake up every day without knowing what’s going to happen.”

The millennial generation, the group of young Americans age 18 to 29, is now facing 11.5 percent unemployment, according to a December’s millennial jobs report by national, non-partisan organization Generation Opportunity.

This number does not take into account the declining labor force participation rate, which additionally has created 1.7 million young adults that are not counted as unemployed because they are not in the labor force. This means that 1.7 million young Americans have given up looking for work altogether due to the lack of jobs, according to Generation Opportunity. If those 1.7 million had been factored, the millennial unemployment rate would be 16.3 percent.

For students such as Armstrong, this is not encouraging news. Some students believe continuing school may be the best option to market themselves.

“You learn a lot during your undergraduate,” Armstrong said. “Any graduate program is a professional program. Being out of school and [the] University, I’m hoping for a post-graduate degree.”

Many students have hopes of graduating and getting their dream job right out of school. Samantha Wilson, a director with the University Career Center argues that students should look at their education as more of a long-term investment.

“Investing in a college education is very much like investing in the stock market,” Wilson said. “It’s not a short-term investment. Just because you pay that in for four years doesn’t mean that the return is going to happen the year you get out of college.”

Wilson said it’s a parallel of basic economics. Money invested in stocks over six months will not generate a heavy return, so graduates expecting to be heavy earners right out of school will likely be disappointed. Money invested over the course of several years or a lifetime will generate a far greater return on investment. Wilson explained many of the current CEO’s of fortune 500 companies started at the bottom and worked their way up, but their college education was initially what allowed them to get their foot in the door on their road to success.

   “If you get your foot in the door and pay your dues, you have the possibility to build your career,” Wilson said.

There are also students who think a college degree is not worth the time and money it takes to earn. According to Wilson, this is not the case.

“There is study after study that shows that people with a college degree have substantially more earnings than people who do not have a college degree,” Wilson said. “There is the exception and this may not be the case when you are 21 and 22 years old, but your return on investment is going to be on a longer period of time.”

According Turner Leigh, an executive director with the University Academic Services, there is some positive news regarding future employment for students.

“We have seen an increase in opportunities for students this fall with more active recruiting employers, interviews and job postings,” Leigh said. “Also, all of the major fall career fairs had increased employer attendance.”

Current students still have the opportunity to take advantage of the many services offered at the University to make themselves more marketable. The Career Center offers resume and interviewing skills workshops. Students can also take advantage of the Aggie Network and Association of Former Students to help them find work after graduation.

“I don’t want to kind of have rose colored glasses on, but this is not the first time this has happened,” Wilson said. “There are challenges to it, but the fact is, this is not the first generation of college graduates to get through this.”

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