Watching the NCAA March Madness basketball games this weekend, one commercial caught my eye and reminded me of the dire jobs picture for young Americans.
The Enterprise Rent-a-Car Company featured wholesome, recent college graduates who happily touted their employers’ advantages. Two had diplomas from the University of Southern California and Southern Methodist University, private, elite institutions.
While the multibillion dollar Enterprise may be a fine place to work, I doubt an incoming USC or SMU freshman envisioned working at a car rental after he earned his diploma. But the harsh reality is that today’s college graduates are the victims of a generation of outsourcing, thousands of non-immigrant visas, illegal immigrants working in the underground economy and deferred action for childhood arrivals. Each of those immigration-related job killers have undermined American futures.
Graduates’outlooks are so grim that college administrators are worried that students and their parents may conclude that a university education isn’t worth its very high and always increasing tuition fees. Before they commit, applicants demand to know how many Fortune 500 companies recruit on campus and how many undergraduates are accepted into medical or law school.
The common parlance to describe college students’ plight is “over-educated and under-employed.” And a report from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity concluded that many college-educated Americans have jobs that aren’t worth the price of their degree.
Of 41.7 million working college graduates in 2010, 48 percent work in jobs that require less than a bachelor’s degree, and 38 percent of those polled didn’t even need high school diplomas, according to report authors Richard Vedder, Jonathan Robe and Christopher Denhart. In their opinion, the United States could be over-educating its citizens and wasting taxpayer money on producing graduate the nation’s economy doesn’t need.
In 2010, 39.3 percent of adults between the age 25 and 34 had a post-secondary degree, up from 38.8 percent in 2009. While the rate has inched up steadily since 2008, underemployment has kept pace. Vedder's gloomy forecast is that the number of college grads will grow by 19 million between 2010 and 2020 while the number of jobs requiring advanced education is expected to grow by less than 7 million.
Complicating matters, in June 2012 the White House announced that it would offer what it called deferred action for childhood arrivals, the young children of illegal immigrants allegedly brought to the United States under circumstances beyond their control. Many of these deferred action recipients will compete head-to-head with already struggling American students. Adding to deferred action, Congress is furiously working on comprehensive immigration reform that would issue 11 million new work permits to previously unemployable aliens—another nail in young Americans’ work prospects.
Vedder warns that those who think a degree will lead to a good, middle class life should adjust their expectations downward. He said: “There’s a good chance you could end up being a bartender.”
Or, as in the case of those smiling Enterprise employees, they may become rental car agents.