The Job Market: Is a College Degree Worth Less?
Employers and career experts see a growing problem in American society — an abundance of college graduates, many burdened with tuition-loan debt, heading into the work world with a degree that doesn't mean much anymore.
What's not watered down is the tab. The cost of average tuition rose 6.5% this fall, and a report released on Dec. 1 by the Project on Student Debt showed that the IOU is getting bigger. Two-thirds of all students now leave college with outstanding loans; the average amount of debt rose to $23,200 in 2008. In the last academic year, the total amount loaned to students increased about 18% from the previous year, to $81 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Enterprise Rent-A-Car hiring guru Marie Artim, who says her company will hire 8,000 of 200,000 applicants worldwide, has found that her applicant pool is changing. "While 10 years ago we may have had the same numbers, today we have higher-quality and better-qualified applicants," she says.
For now, graduates can steer their careers where job growth is strong — education, health care and nonprofit programs like Teach for America, says Trudy Steinfeld, a career counselor at New York University. "Every college degree is not cookie cutter. It's what you have done during that degree to distinguish yourself.