College Is Still Worth The Price

By Jessi Rucker

Managing Editor

If you’ve ever wondered if college was worth all the sacrificial finances, nights staying up studying and agonizing lectures, rest assured: college graduates have a huge leg up on their non-graduate counterparts.

A typical college graduate makes an astonishing 75 percent more every week than the typical non-graduate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  While facing a job market still suffering from a recession, college graduates are more than twice as likely to be employed than those without any post high school education.

“The climate is very difficult, but if you are willing to be flexible and take a position that is not exactly what you dreamed of, but is in your field, with some hard work and patience, it can pay off,” said Suriyati Barnes, Mercy graduate in Urban Education, who is currently working as a Special Education teacher for the New York City Department of Education with her Masters degree.

The current unemployment rate for college students is at 4.3 percent, down from 5 percent just a year ago, according to the BLS.   The unemployment rate for those without any college is 9.5 percent and almost 14 percent for those without a high school diploma.

Although college students may be more likely to be employed, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are working in a position related to their major or making the money they had expected.

“I am employed, but not in my field,” said Denita Govia, Mercy College graduate from the Mental Health program.  “It has been a nightmare trying to find work.”

If graduates do land a job, they might have to struggle to hold on to that career they worked so hard for, especially during these tough economic times.

“I was laid off after five years,” said Joseph Mena, a Mercy Public Accounting graduate who landed a job in his industry but was let go in March of 2010. “I tried hard for six-months but couldn’t even get an interview,” said Mena, who was forced to get a job in another field.

Although college-educated workers are less likely to become unemployed, if they are dismissed, the length of time before landing their next job is about the same as that of a high school dropout, as reported by economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.  The national average for duration of unemployment is 37 weeks, according to the BLS.

For every job opening, there are five unemployed Americans.  Layoffs are at their lowest since 2000, but the lack of job creations is still halting job seekers, according to BLS.

“I am now tens of thousands of dollars in debt with no job prospects in sight,” Govia says, defeated.  “I plan to relocate out of state to try my luck in a new job market.”

New York is ranked 22nd in unemployment rates, with a rate of 8.3 percent.  North Dakota rests in first place with 3.8 percent and Nevada sits last with over 14 percent of the population  unemployed.  The national unemployment rate is 9.5 percent.

“Networking is key to landing a job,” said Govia, offering advice to Mercy students.  “You should keep in contact with your fellow classmates and join as many professional organizations related to your major as you can.”

Mercy graduate Mena thinks networking is the way most people in accounting have landed jobs, so he suggests working hard way before graduating.  He stresses internships, and he feels if he would have worked with a major accounting firm he would have had an advantage over those without a foot already in the door.

Even though internships are usually unpaid, they can be a valuable way to gain on-the job training, create a network of contacts, and have the possibility of getting on permanent payroll.

Another downside is the pay cut some pursuing a career would have to settle for.  Sadly, from 2009 to 2010, pay slumped in every educational group, from those with college degrees to those having less than a high school education.

“I still attempt to get a job in accounting but, recruiters tell me that employers are only looking for temporary work,” says Mena, who is forced to decline a position with a known expiration date.