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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

College grads aren't baristas for life (usually)

The crisis for new college graduates is a media perennial, writes Kevin Carey in The Atlantic. "Find some recent grads working humble jobs, quote them on how their lives are failing to live up to their aspirations, and cite an expert warning that this could be the new normal."


Photo: Ketut Subiyanto/Pexels

Fear not, he writes. Most college graduates are wealthier (and healthier) than those who don't earn a degree. It may take some time, but even the humanities graduates won't be baristas forever.


A recent Washington Post story, “New College Grads Are More Likely to Be Unemployed in Today’s Job Market,” illustrates the trend, Carey writes. In September, the unemployment rate for recent college graduates was 4.4 percent, compared to 5.6 percent ten years ago. But unemployment was even lower at 3.6 percent for all workers.

It's not that graduates are doing badly, writes Carey. "It's that the job market for workers without degrees has been so extraordinary."


He tracked down people profiled in past doom-and-gloom stories. A young man who was living on rice and beans in a windowless room is now a surgeon. A young woman who was tending bar now runs a digital-design firm. "A lowly administrative assistant in 2011 is now the vice president of sales at a business-finance company," Carey writes, while a former waitress who earned "$2.17 an hour plus tips" is a senior manager at a digital-banking firm.


Will college degrees continue to have value? Small-business employers say college graduates lack useful skills, write Jason Bedrick and Adam Kissel in Newsweek. According to the Freedom Economy Index, 41 percent of employers said they were "less likely to consider a job-seeker with a 4-year degree from a major university or college." Only 10 percent were "more likely" and 42 percent said it made no difference.


College graduates "typically have an incompatible ideology with my business culture" and are not "willing to work," said the small businessmen.


Corporate and government employers are dropping degree requirements for entry-level jobs, Bedrick and Kissel note. "Among the more than half of employers who dropped some degree requirements in 2023, 73 percent said they plan to eliminate more degree requirements in 2024."


Recent college graduates are poorly prepared for the workforce, say nearly 60 percent of employers in a survey by intelligent.com. "Close to 40 percent admitted to intentionally avoiding hiring Gen Z college graduates and instead hiring employees who are 27 and older," notes Ed Week's Elizabeth Heubeck.

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