Campaigning on College Grads’ Prospects

If you’re a regular reader of this site you know that education is a frequent topic. Though the nation’s economy is slowly improving, its current state — fueled in large part by the unwillingness of some of our elected officials to boost job prospects — has, in part, resulted in greater competition for jobs available to debt-saddled graduates. The good news is, according to an ABC News report issued before the summer recess, prospects for college graduates are at their best level since the beginning of the recession. And, since that report was issued, ABC News has also reported that fewer graduates are returning home to live with their parents.

But there are still obstacles.

So now it’s early in a new academic year and this is the time of year when many students begin to examine their prospects; what is the outlook for soon-to-be graduates? Take a look at the graphic below; while its purpose is to encourage online education programs, the information displays both the challenges and options students face:


While I’m not suggesting that graduates “stay home” there is a point to be made about the opportunities furthering one’s education may provide. Let’s dissect this and take a look at the current environment:

  • Though the cost of a college education can be prohibitive, on average those who further their education beyond an undergraduate degree have a better chance of earning a greater average salary than those who do not.
  • Factors such as outsourcing led to a decline in the presence of the manufacturing industry, and that has contributed to stagnant real income in the United States. With the decline of unions and their better-paying, middle-income jobs over the past several decades has come a shrinking middle class.
  • A decline in the study of mathematical and technical sciences, which are among the highest paying professions, has resulted in too few people to fill available jobs in these fields. The Obama administration has formed partnerships with community colleges and businesses so that graduating students will be better prepared for available jobs.
  • Growth in the service industry has added downward pressure to wages over the past few decades. This furthers the argument in support of pursuing higher education.

On a positive note, more avenues to pay for higher learning are available to graduates who wish to further their education. According to a articles, the President’s college tax credit is helping millions of students and families pay for college – last year it helped more than 9 million students and families save on tuition. Given Mitt Romney’s propensity towards all things vague (and his ability to change positions), it is not certain exactly what he believes so his numbers, in the form of a budget, would have to speak for themselves. The Romney/Ryan ‘to do list’ proposes cutting the tax credit; if that’s not enough, the budget plans include slashing Pell Grants and student loans. Regardless of what Romney says, in noting the advice that Romney once gave to a college student, that is, borrow money from his parents, President Obama knows that “Not everybody has parents who have the money to lend.”

Mitt Romney’s website states:

“Post-secondary education cannot become a luxury for the few; instead, all students should have the opportunity to attend a college that best suits their needs. Whether it is public or private, traditional or online, college must be available and affordable.”

That sounds good until it’s matched with the plans laid out in Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” budget.

So what is a student to do? Take time to learn the implications that can be gleaned from the very telling chart above — and then make sure that each candidate’s stance on job growth, affordable education and the prospects for educated young people in this country are understood before election day.

Vote smart; the future of this nation is at stake — and only an educated, competitive labour force can move this nation into the future.

Graphic created by: