Cost for Concern?

There were 227,000 jobs created in February according to the Bureau of Labor Statisics and now, more than ever, students are going to college looking to improve their ability to find one of those 227,000 jobs.

In a recent study released by the Staff of the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) from the University of California, Los Angeles, the number one reason for students going to college now is “to be able to get a better job.” This is a shift in thought by students, who were going to increase their knowledge about subjects that interested them, the former number one reason for attending college prior to 2008.

This also affects the economy, both nationally and locally, when more students go to college, looking for better prospects in whatever profession they gravitate towards.

“I think that, looking at it from an economic stand point, any state is going to benefit from students that get a college degree,” said Dr. Dorothy Nelson, interim director of The Center for Student Excellence. “I think that there have been studies that have shown that with every college graduate, over the lifetime of their work, they contribute about a million dollars to the state economy. So looking at it from that standpoint, I think we can say college is beneficial. But if you look at the number of students who enter college and do not graduate, then the impact on the economy from the loan, the lost income, or the feelings of failure, there are some elements there that need to be recognized.”

This goes hand in hand with how students are prepared for college. Finding out what high school students find interesting or what profession they can realistically perform may help the student, and economy, better in the long run. Yet, we cannot only look to high school students and college, as Dr. Nelson mentions.

“I think that when students go through high school, in the past, they would have two tracks,” said Nelson. “They would have something like a technical track or a college preparation track. Students got locked into that, instead of having a focus on experience that would help them understand their own skills, abilities, values, personalities or expressions. I believe that it is not a factor of college being the only way to contribute to economic development. I think if they do not go to college, we leave them. I think their needs to be some very strong assessing of students for their talents and to help them maximize or capitalize on themselves for what they have and what they can bring to the state and make them feel good about that. I think right now, if a student doesn’t come to college, they feel like they’re nothing.”

Also found in the study, the percentage of students taking out large loans for their first year of college, $10,000 or more, has more than doubled in a ten-year period from 2001 to 2011, 5.5 percent to 13.3 percent respectively.  This increase, along with a 5 percent increase in 2010 for the average indebtedness of college students ($25,250), has the CIRP “concerned about the combination of fewer funds from scholarships and the increased high usage of loans to pay for college.”

“Getting students through in four years is going to be less of a drain on the student’s economic profile when they leave college, and that’s important,” said Nelson. “It helps keep the student’s focus and momentum.”

However, some students need more than just four years of schooling. Nelson gave an example of a student starting the nursing degree plan. That person may want to go into a field to help others, yet after taking required science courses, find that this may not be the profession they want to enter. Through this process, the student understands that they would still like to help others, but with a different profession.

“It happens to the best of them,” said Nelson. “You have students who are very decided on what they want, or undecided, but they come through and have experiences, receiving useful and credible information, and they change direction.”

Students looking for a job need to understand the field of potential employees is crowded, so much so with college graduates. More than 44 percent of 2009 college graduates were either not working, or in a job that did not require a college degree. This was found in a study released by Andrew Sum of Northeastern University in May of 2011. Using the resources at hand, whether it be The Center for Student Excellence, department advising or getting involved with organizations on campus, be sure to understand the current economy and job situation that many graduates face.