A growing number of college graduates are underemployed, concludes a new study from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.
About 48 percent of employed U.S. college graduates are in jobs that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests requires less than a four-year college education. Eleven percent of employed college graduates are in occupations requiring more than a high-school diploma but less than a bachelor’s, and 37 percent are in occupations requiring no more than a high-school diploma;
In 1970, fewer than one percent of taxi drivers and two percent of firefighters had college degrees; now more than 15 percent do in both jobs. Increasingly, new college graduates are working as clerks, cashiers, retail sales reps and waiters and waitresses, the report found. About five million are in jobs the BLS says require less than a high-school education.
Comparing average earnings for high school and college graduates is misleading, the report warns. “Overproduction of college graduates lowers recent graduate earnings relative to those graduating earlier.”
Not all colleges are equal: Typical graduates of elite private schools make more than graduates of flagship state universities, but those graduates do much better than those attending relatively non-selective institutions;
Not all majors are equal: Engineering and economics graduates, for example, typically earn almost double what social work and education graduates receive by mid-career;
The number of college graduates is projected to increase by 19 million in 20 years; the number of jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree is projected to increase by 7 million, according to the BLS.
If President Obama’s college completion goal is met, even more young people will be competing for a limited number of professional jobs, warns Richard Vedder, co-author of the study and director of CCAP. Soon, would-be janitors will need “a master’s degree in Janitorial Studies.”
The “college for all” movement is misguided, CCAP argues, calling for “new and cheaper ways to assure employee competency” and investing “less in four year degree programs and more in cheaper training, including high school vocational education.”
College graduates continue to earn significantly more than non-graduates, Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, tells Inside Higher Ed.
“You can’t have a 48 percent surplus of college graduates and an 84 percent college wage premium over high school,” Carnevale wrote via e-mail. “This advantage wouldn’t have been growing along with the number of college graduates since 1983. The market is very responsive to labor supply…. If there was an over production the employers would’ve figured it out some time over the past 30 years.”
Nearly half of sales reps in the wholesale and manufacturing industries have four-year degrees in what the BLS considers a high school-level job. “What Vedder doesn’t point out is that sales representatives with B.A.s make $73,000 a year compared with sales representatives with high school degrees who only make $38,000 a year,” says Carnevale.
Community colleges are “ideally positioned to close the skills gap and train out-of-work Americans for “middle-skill jobs,” write Anthony Carnevale and Nicole Smith of Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) in GOOD. Sixty percent of jobs today require some postsecondary education or training, and the percentage will continue to rise, they predict.
With the help of community colleges, 1.5 million unemployed Americans could qualify for good jobs that require more than high school training but less than a bachelor’s degree, the researchers estimate. Roughly 21 percent of all jobs require “middle: skills: 29 million pay at least $35,000 a year and nearly 10 million pay more than $50,000. A “significant number actually pay more than entry-level jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree.”
However, community colleges are under pressure to raise graduation rates and ensure that graduates find jobs in their field.
With completion rates as the new criterion of success, community colleges run the risk of no longer being open access—a safe haven for students looking to complete remedial work, basic education or professional training that may or may not lead to a piece of paper certifying some kind of “completion” of a course of study.
Carnevale and Smith recommend four ways to help community colleges close the skills gap while balancing the goals of open access and high completion rates:
Community colleges should be allowed to have lower graduation rates than current metrics suggest—especially if they are tasked with having open access and non-traditional students.
. . . Funding levels should be attached to programs, not students, and should reflect the varying needs of those programs. For example, nursing programs that require access to very expensive technical equipment should be funded at a higher level than, say, courses in the liberal arts.
Strengthening the high school-to-college pipeline could reduce the number of students in community colleges who need remedial help, and ultimately lead to better completion rates for everyone.
Both community colleges and four-year institutions should provide more concrete data about the money value of college courses, programs and majors. The expected payoff, long-term costs and value of a college major should be information that all colleges make available to every potential and current student.
Community colleges will be of increasing importance in helping Americans prepare for the workforce and retrain to meet new workforce demands, Carnevale and Smith conclude.
How many college-educated janitors do we need? It’s not clear that a college education is “an economic imperative,” as President Obama puts it, argues economist Walter Williams.
A good part of our higher education problem, explaining its spiraling cost, is that a large percentage of college students are incapable of doing real college work. They shouldn’t be wasting their own resources and those of their families and taxpayers.
We now have janitors, waiters and taxi drivers with college degrees, writes Williams, citing Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. Meanwhile, colleges are lowering standards to create “comfortable environments for the educationally incompetent.”
The backlash against “college for all” is growing, writes Paul Fain on Inside Higher Ed. Yet President Obama and other higher education advocates never wanted all students to enroll in liberal arts colleges to earn bachelor’s degrees, Fain points out. Obama’s goal is at least one year of postsecondary education, which for many will mean job training that lasts a few months or a few years.
“College for all is a false premise. It’s not an argument anyone is making,” says Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation.
The completion push is really about “postsecondary education and training for all,” says Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce. But “that doesn’t fit on anybody’s bumper sticker.”
Vocational and technical education often gets short shrift during debates on college completion, says Mark Milliron, president of Western Governors University Texas, and a former official with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Instead of focusing on a “family of credentials that provide that earning and learning potential,” like certificate programs that cater to working adults, Milliron says the discussion gravitates toward bachelor’s degrees. And that conflation is a problem, because “it plays into anti-elitism.”
While earning a college degree has paid off in the past, Vedder warns it may not do so in the future, as less-capable students try college. “The law of diminishing returns is starting to rear its ugly head,” Vedder says.
The U.S. needs more college graduates, says Jamie Merisotis of Lumina Foundation on PBS.
Endlessly, we hear about college drop-outs like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, but their success conceals a startling truth. The U.S. actually needs more college graduates, even taking the great recession into account. Now, economist Tony Carnevale estimates that in a few years, 63 percent of all jobs will require some form of post secondary education or training.
Business leaders should support the value of higher education, Merisotis says. Without an educated workforce, the U.S. can’t compete with the world.
Demand for college graduates will be high, once the recession ends, concludes Help Wanted, a Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce report. Colleges should streamline programs to emphasize employability, says Anthony Carnevale, director of the center, in Inside Higher Ed.
Carnevale acknowledged that such a shift would accept “a dual system” in which a select few receive an “academic” college education and most students receive a college education that is career preparation. “We are all offended by tracking,” he said. But the reality, Carnevale said, is that the current system doesn’t do a good job with the career-oriented track, in part by letting many of the colleges on that track “aspire to be Harvard.” He said that educators have a choice: “to be loyal to the purity of your ideas and refuse to build a selective dual system, or make people better off.”
Most high school students should develop a career plan before going to college, Carnevale said. Community colleges and state universities should encourage students to train for a career and track graduates’ success in the workforce. Funding should be shifted from flagship universities that educate the best prepared to community colleges and other public institutions that educate “most of America.”
But few teenagers know what they want to do with their lives, says HechingerEd.
More college-educated young people are seeking careers in the skilled trades, reports the Washington Post.
They started out studying aerospace engineering, creative writing and urban planning. But somewhere on the path to accumulating academic credentials, they decided that working with their hands sounded more pleasant — and lucrative — than a lot of white-collar work. So bye-bye to term papers and graduate theses, and hello to apprenticeships to become plumbers, electricians, auto mechanics and carpenters.
Adam) Osielski thought he’d go from Notre Dame, where he earned a theology degree, to law school. But it seemed like drudgery. He was graduated this month from an apprenticeship program run by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. “I’m glad to be already working and developing a career.”
Economists and labor scholars say the rocky economy has been a boon for trade schools. But they also point to policymakers, guidance counselors and parents who don’t value the trades and overvalue college as the gateway to success. As a result, American students come to trade apprenticeships relatively late, often after they’ve already tried college. The average age of the beginning apprentice in the United States is 25; in Germany, 18.
High school counselors “want everyone to go to college,” said Dale Belman, a labor economist at Michigan State University. “So now we’re getting more of the college-educated going into the trades.”
Licensed journeymen typically earn $65,000 to $85,000 a year, depending on overtime, the Post reports. Apprenticeship programs are swamped with applicants. The electricians’ union has 2,500 applications for 100 slots.
Most gravitate to commercial construction, where digital equipment has made the ability to decipher technical manuals and complicated building codes crucial. Many aspire to be foremen or own their own business.
Rateeluck Puvapiromquan, 30, the daughter of two teachers who immigrated to Baltimore from Thailand, earned a philosophy of religion degree at St. Mary’s College. After working in coffee shops and hotels, she became an electrician. “The critical thinking and communication skills I learned in college are absolutely crucial to getting our work done. It’s critical thinking, not just, ‘I lift heavy objects.’ ”