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Unemployed or underemployed recent top 20 college grads-why?

CollegeCheckerCollegeChecker 48 replies6 threads Junior Member
edited October 2009 in Parents Forum
As a parent who had to make the decision whether to send our child to a top twenty private school and pay $50,000/yr or to the state flagship school, at $21,000, we are hearing bitter complaints from parents who paid the higher cost for a private school and now their child is unemployed or underemployed.

Our child picked the state school.

Two examples from parents we know, a doctor who's child graduated in May from Dartmouth and now unemployed but living in an east coast city and being supported by the parents , and another Notre Dame grad who is now is going back to a local school to get a teaching cerrtificate. Parents are bitter about the cost they paid, the doctor called it the "failed $200,000 experiment".

I believe their unemployment status is more a fuction of their degree than the school, and yes, these are great schools, but some liberal art degrees should come with a warning , "this degree is hazardous to finding a well paying job", in additon to paying the $120,000 premium to go to these schools.

Welcome any comments of course, I just shake my head when I hear these complaints from parents, there is a lot of anger toward the school.
edited October 2009
152 replies
Post edited by CollegeChecker on
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Replies to: Unemployed or underemployed recent top 20 college grads-why?

  • BCEagle91BCEagle91 22635 replies127 threads Senior Member
    We have official unemployment at 10% and more accurate (my opinion) unemployment at 17%. We've had some $13 trillion of household wealth evaporate (and we've got some back from the market rally) so many are now reconsidering their attitudes now that money is more precious and debt less attractive.

    I would guess that these parents worked with their children to get them into these schools and were proud when they were accepted and proud when they graduated. They could have come to College Confidential to read about the debates of majors and employment potential. But those sorts of things don't matter as much when the economy is booming. As parents, we try to help our kids predict the future. What will be useful in four years and what would they like or love to do for the rest of their lives? We don't always get it right.

    I think of educational spending as part of the expected costs for raising kids. Not an investment that I get a direct or somewhat indirect return on.
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  • goaliedadgoaliedad 2158 replies41 threads Senior Member
    a doctor who's child graduated in May from Dartmouth and now unemployed but living in an east coast city and being supported by the parents

    Considering the lifestyle being supported independent of having a job, I get the feeling that this child is being given all the runway possible to find "the perfect job" and not just a job. Perhaps some time living at home in the basement will change the search parameters?

    I say that because the second example...
    Notre Dame grad who is now is going back to a local school to get a teaching cerrtificate. Parents are bitter about the cost they paid, the doctor called it the "failed $200,000 experiment".
    has clearly had to make a choice to change career direction (even at the expense of an extra year of school), as it seems that this parent is looking for immediate payback (no runway extended).

    Personally, I think the kids the Notre Dame graduate will get will be very lucky to get such a well educated teacher, but that is not important to that parent. Probably disappointed that the kid didn't get into a prestigous law or medical school. Measuring the kid by the paycheck is a terrible way to start an adult relationship.

    Every family has a different strategy and outlook when presented with the cold hard facts that not every graduate from a top institution gets their dream job - especially in this economy. They've just got to get over the disappointment that not everyone is a winner.

    I guess the expectations are higher when you think you are paying big bucks. I seriously doubt that these parents bet the farm on their kids (obviously one has the money to subsidize the post-grad lifestyle). There are worse situations. I'm sure there are a lot of kids out there who struggled to get through school, piled up student loans, and are now in mom and dad's basement looking for a menial part-time job so they can pay their loan payments.
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  • SmithieandProudSmithieandProud 3012 replies26 threads Senior Member
    I graduated from a top 20 LAC last spring and most of my friends are unemployed or underemployed. A lot of it is the job market, it is VERY tough right now. At the think tank where I worked we were getting people with Master's degrees applying for unpaid summer internships just to get their foot in the door, so you can imagine how much harder it is for newly minted B.A.'s to find paying work.

    Some of it though, boils down to preparation. I was one of the lucky ones who got a great job, chosen field, right off the bat. But part of that was because I knew what I wanted to do almost from my first-year, and had had good internships in my field where I built up and then sustained good relationships. Coming out, I had a network in place that could catch me and help me get started. And there was a good measure of lucky timing involved too. But am definitely in the minority on this one.

    Some of my other friends were lucky to get into service programs for one or two years, so they at least know they'll have a shelter from this economic storm.

    I think a lot of students just aren't prepared when they graduate, but that's not all their fault. They're still really young and they may not have known what they wanted to do enough in advance to be able to do multiple internships and plan carefully. They may still not know what they want to do. Or they may not have had the opportunity to get internships (that involves plenty of luck and chance too). Unfortunately, in better times there would have still been places for them to go, but now the lucky ones are temping or getting parental support, the less lucky ones are couch surfing.

    But you know, this too will pass. Evenutally things will improve, having that top 20 degree will be a good asset, and the reality-checking experience of being without the future you envisioned won't hurt in developing us either. In the meantime, I'm keepign my couch open to my less lucky friends.
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  • tom1944tom1944 5820 replies198 threads Senior Member
    It is a very tough economy.
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  • MarianMarian 13230 replies83 threads Senior Member
    There also may be a tendency for some employers to avoid hiring these young people for jobs that are lower level than what they would have gotten in a better economy because the employer knows that the employee will leave as soon as the economy improves and better jobs are available.
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  • dwhitedwhite 868 replies61 threads Member
    Interesting post. I'm not sure everyone willing to pay the $50K a year is doing so because we think our kid is going to get a better job as a result - there is so much more to it than that. For us, the "experience" our S is getting at his chosen "top 20" school is incomparable to what he would have gotten at our state flagship and for us, that is worth the money, regardless of what happens after graduation.
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  • frazzled1frazzled1 5559 replies245 threads Senior Member
    Parents are bitter about the cost they paid, the doctor called it the "failed $200,000 experiment".
    Nice to see this guy taking the long view. :rolleyes: Graduation was what, 5 months ago?
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  • owliceowlice 3150 replies75 threads Senior Member
    Wow. The point of college is, I thought, to educate.

    My first husband doesn't have a degree and makes more than I do, with my B.S.; my second husband has a PhD from Cornell and makes half what I do, after a nearly two-year job search (and his current salary was a big step up from what he had been making).

    People with degrees and lots of experience are having trouble finding work; of course new college grads will have trouble, too. I will not think my son a failure, or his education a failure, if he fails to find a job immediately after graduation.

    If these parents were sending their kids to post-secondary schools for job training, they perhaps should have considered trade school instead of college.
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  • Gwen FairfaxGwen Fairfax 2380 replies55 threads Senior Member
    I agree absolutely with Owlice....but....I do know several young men who graduated from Ivys and have since just retreated from life. Going to school is one thing, living in the world is another. As we pile more and more tests, high level courses, EC expectations, etc. on high school students, we also pull them away from their own aims and interests...yes, maybe they will go to HYP, and their parents will get immense satisfaction from that. But will they be following their own interests and abilities, their own motivations? Sometimes the answer to that is no-- they're learning to please teachers and ace standardized tests....2 skills they will need rarely if ever once they graduate.
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  • dbwesdbwes 1561 replies99 threads Senior Member
    Well, part of this too is fallout from the widespread belief that certain schools, just because of prestige, will provide Willie Wonka-like Golden Tickets to the future. This is partly what fuels the obsession with the top schools.

    And please, let's not turn this into one of those CC discussions about those of us who value education for itself and those of us who are turning our kids into lock-step drill-marching "might as well go to trade school" accountants and nurses and such. My one kid is in a very career-directed program and the other is contemplating one, but both girls are great students who also enjoy learning about the arts, philosophy, global economies, and all the wonderful things that college gives you time to contemplate.
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  • LongPrimeLongPrime 5106 replies102 threads- Senior Member
    DS spent a year writing resumes and only got a job (a nice peachy job) from his undergrad advisor. This is with engineering degrees from top engineering schools, internships from big software, and good LORs.
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  • DougBetsyDougBetsy 5578 replies252 threads Senior Member
    In this economy I'd consider any recent college grad with a degree-related job the exception, not the rule. That doctor in post #1 is a little too impatient.
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  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids 84228 replies1042 threadsForum Champion Financial Aid, Forum Champion Alabama Forum Champion
    >>>>>>>>>>
    As a parent who had to make the decision whether to send our child to a top twenty private school and pay $50,000/yr or to the state flagship school, at $21,000, we are hearing bitter complaints from parents who paid the higher cost for a private school and now their child is unemployed or underemployed...Our child picked the state school.
    <<<<<<<<<<<<<<

    Yes, this is a frustration for many parents. While visiting friends, they voiced a similar complaint now that their Columbia-graduated son is still unemployed. He has some student loans, and his parents will make payments (certainly not their original intention) until he gets a job.
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  • ucsd_ucla_daducsd_ucla_dad 8506 replies67 threads Senior Member
    I don't see why one would expect a new grad with BA liberal arts degree to automatically get a great job whether graduating from a top 20 or any other college. Even though I think a lot of students don't really think through the practicalities of the particular degree and have no idea of the potential job market for that degree, it seems that parents should have a better idea although apparently many of them don't think it through either. You do hear about quite a few of these grads saying to themselves "oh well, I guess I can become a teacher" which is disappointing that they're deciding to become teachers only because they don't know what else to do (as opposed to the BA-LibArts and other grads who truly want to be teachers).

    Students need to really think about the potential jobs that could result from their education and not only work towards the degree they're interested in but also pursue internships and other opportunities that might help them later on when it comes time to seek employment.

    People who decide to pay $200K or more for a BA LibArts degree really should think through the practicalities of the degree versus the cost and consider whether it's worth it. Many people will still decide it's worth it and if they make the decision with their eyes wide open won't be so disappointed. They'll realize that they might have work extra hard at making connections, getting internships, discovering which fields/functions are applicable to their degree, and perhaps spending extra time in searching for a job.

    Tougher economic times only exacerbates the issue.
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  • ellemenopeellemenope 11344 replies36 threads Senior Member
    D graduated from a top 20 school in 2008. Some of her friends are not on a career track yet and they don't seem worried. Maybe that is what the top 20 schools do for you--give you the confidence and the belief that everything will work out in the end when it comes to work/career.

    Agree that the doctor dad is giving up too easily. The time to decide if the college experiment was a failure is years/maybe decades from now.
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  • Columbia_StudentColumbia_Student 4999 replies47 threads Senior Member
    I don't know if I believe that top 20 schools can give you that confidence because back in Fall 2007, when the recession was no where insight, an alumni from Hilary's college interviewed my daughter and I believe her job was not something that you would be impressed. I believe she graduated at least 10 years. I've heard similar story from D2's piano teacher. She had a brilliant piano student that graduated from Harvard a while back doing secretary job type at a museum. The piano teacher said this girl did not have to go to Harvard for that job.
    I know education is not the same as job training but it does make some parents wonder sometimes.
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  • Scoutmom9Scoutmom9 350 replies94 threads Member
    "Students need to really think about the potential jobs that could result from their education and not only work towards the degree they're interested in but also pursue internships and other opportunities that might help them later on when it comes time to seek employment."

    I think ucsd_ucla_dad is so right. (I don't think we can impress enough on our kids the importance of this.
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  • CountingDownCountingDown 13531 replies110 threads Senior Member
    One of my docs recently told me that the headmaster at her S's local prep school told the parents at BTS night how delighted they were at some of the new hires they were able to make. Among them is a recent graduate from a top five math program, and feels like this young person will really make a difference to the students.

    I was a journalism/polisci major and wound up in pension administration/consulting (requires lots of writing, some accounting and understanding of laws and regs). Funny how I know several journalism majors who wound up in the same field! Those writing skills got us in the door.

    It's not like I woke up one morning in college and decided my life's calling was to run 401(k) plans. OTOH, it has been an interesting path and uses a variety of skills -- something I knew I needed to have in whatever career I pursued. Flexibility is important in that first job.
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  • researching4embresearching4emb 477 replies15 threads Member
    I know it doesn't make obvious financial sense for us to be sending our oldest D to a private university to become a 1st grade teacher, where at least for the first few years she'll make about what it cost us per year to educate her. But her college years are about so many, many things: growing up, learning, connecting with professors, getting excited about ideas, making decisions for yourself, working toward a productive and wise adulthood. We're investing in an environment that is thusfar delivering the the goods and then some. Fortunately, we have some grandparent help to make this education possible, but even if we didn't, we would try to find a way. No matter how much money she makes at age 24. And I know she'll make the world a better place for a lot of 6-year-olds someday.
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  • gadadgadad 7471 replies301 threads Senior Member
    the "failed $200,000 experiment"

    Your doctor friend assumed that the entire purpose of a Dartmouth education was to get his or her student a desirable entry-level job in his or her first six months out of school? The problem isn't with Dartmouth or with the student - it's with the parent who apparently has plenty of dollars but too little sense.
    But her college years are about so many, many things: growing up, learning, connecting with professors, getting excited about ideas, making decisions for yourself, working toward a productive and wise adulthood. We're investing in an environment that is thusfar delivering the the goods and then some. Fortunately, we have some grandparent help to make this education possible, but even if we didn't, we would try to find a way. No matter how much money she makes at age 24.

    Very well put.
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