Turbulent College Landscape

17 Jul 2011, Posted by admin in Packages, No Comments.

Turbulent College Landscape

By James Sprague

The class of 2011 may end up celebrating their graduation entering an uncertain job market with the highest amount of student debt in history, according to recent reports.

Only 53 percent of graduates from the class of 2010 have full-time jobs, according to a survey released by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.

The percentage is a steep decline from the classes of 2006 and 2007, of which 90 percent of respondents had full-time jobs, according to the survey “Unfulfilled Expectations: Recent College Graduates Struggle in a Troubled Economy.”

The study, which surveyed 571 people who graduated college between 2006-10, also showed that graduates are taking jobs that pay less and offer little to no health insurance in addition to median starting salaries for students graduating from a four-year university is also declining.

In 2009 and 2010, the median starting salary for college graduates was $27,000 — a 10 percent decrease from the median starting salary of $30,000 graduates from the classes of 2006-2008 were earning, according to the Heldrich survey.

The results come at a time as other research shows graduates of the class of 2011 will carry the largest student debt loan in U.S. history upon graduation.

Average student debt for 2011’s college graduates hovers around $22,900, an eight percent increase from 2010 and, adjusted for inflation, a 47-percent increase from one decade ago, according to estimates from Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of the student financial aid websites Fastweb.com and FinAidorg.

UC students took out more than UC students took out more than $239 million dollars worth of student loans in the 2010-2011 academic year, with the average student loan amount per UC student being $7,736 dollars, according to statistics provided by Ken Wolterman, UC Bursar.

Those statistics also show the federal Stafford loan was the most used 23,516 students total – at UC, according to Wolterman.

“In the coming years, a lot of people will still be paying off their student loans when it’s time for their kids to go to college,” Kantrowitz told the New York Times.

Matthew Dean, a fourth-year communication student at UC – who uses student loans to finance his tuition – said using such loans to pay for his education is worth it, regardless of Kantrowitz’s predictions.

“I look at it this way … lots of people are getting loans for things that depreciate, like cars and such,” Dean said, “My education will never lose its value. I look at it as an investment in myself.”

Kantrowitz’s figures also illustrate that student loan debt is surpassing credit card debt for the second consecutive year. In June 2010, Americans owed approximately $826.5 billion in credit debt, according to Federal Reserve figures. Kantrowitz estimated that federal and private student loans accounted for approximately $829.7 billion of debt.

That total is expected to top $1 trillion in 2011, according to estimates from Kantrowitz, and is compounded for future students as many universities — including the University of Cincinnati — are implementing or considering tuition hikes as the United States House Budget Committee is proposing slashing Pell Grant funding in fiscal year 2012.

“When America needs more students to complete college — and more are struggling financially to do so — we should be investing in Pell Grants and increasing the maximum award of $5,550, not cutting it,” said Lauren Asher, president of The Institute for College Access and Success.

Even the relevance of a college degree has recently been called into question, according to recent studies.

A survey of 2,142 adults released by the Pew Research Center May 15 revealed that 57 percent of Americans said that the higher education system in the U.S. fails to give students good value compared to the money a student spends on college.

The Rutgers University study also showed approximately only half of recent graduates worked in a job that required a college degree.

The Pew study also surveyed 1,055 presidents of two and four-year colleges across the U.S., resulting in only 19 percent believing the U.S. had the best system of higher education in the world and only seven percent believing it would be the best in the world in 10 years.

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