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College graduates face underemployment, report suggests

Almost half of college graduates are employed in jobs that do not apply knowledge gained from higher education, according to a recent study by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.
Despite the findings, several Boston University students said they are not concerned by the threat of underemployment.

“In general, I would like to think that I am a well-rounded, interesting individual who has a good resume and who can articulate myself well to a potential employer,” said Emily Sullivan, a College of Arts and sciences senior. “You should major in something you really enjoy because this [college] is an opportunity for you to pursue something you really like.”

The report, published Jan. 28 and titled “Why are Recent College Graduates Underemployed?” examined U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data and found that about 48 percent of college graduates are employed in positions that require less than a four-year college degree.

“The report should suggest to college students that they need to be cautious and perhaps reduce their expectations as to what they expect to get from a college education in terms of vocational rewards,” said CCAP Director Richard Vedder, who was one of the study’s authors.

The report, also co-authored by Christopher Denhart and Jonathan Robe, stated 37 percent of college graduates — at least 50,000 people — are employed in positions requiring no more than a high school diploma. For example, a measured 16.5 percent of bartenders and 18 percent of telemarketers had attended college.

Vedder said many students end up with jobs that do not meet their expectations because they do not match up with their majors.

“There is a mismatch between what college students expect to get from college, in terms of jobs, and what they actually are getting,” he said. “For example, people majoring in the fine arts, education, social work, subjects like that, are more likely, down the road, to do less well financially than those in most of the sciences or business, engineering, fields of that nature.”

Graduates of private institutions tend to fair better than those of larger public institutions in finding appropriate employment, according to the report.

“The private universities — BU would be on that list — are more selective in the students they take,” Vedder said.

Vedder said employers trust graduates of large, selective institutions because of the selective admissions policies of the universities.
Despite the report’s findings, Vedder said a college degree is still worthwhile for a large percentage of students in college.

BU spokesman Colin Riley said the findings of the study are not necessarily applicable to BU students.

“BU students are highly sought after and do get jobs,” Riley said. “By all indicators, this study wouldn’t really be reflecting BU graduates.”

Riley said he believes a college education is still a valuable investment and the report should only make students more aware of the decisions they make regarding their educational investments.

“The studies that I see definitely do say that individuals with a college education do have increased lifetime earnings — some more significant than others — and that these are decisions that individuals should make with eyes wide open so that they are aware of the investment,” Riley said.

Lauren Effune, a School of Education junior, said she is concerned about finding employment after college.

“It’s competitive,” she said. “It scares me, but it’s exciting at the same time.”

Effune said she still believes a college degree is important for a well-paying job and she plans to attend graduate school.

Lauren Henry, a College of General Studies sophomore, said she considered her status as a job candidate when choosing public relations as a major and business management as a minor.

“I minored in business to set myself apart from other communication majors because I know that’s a pretty common major nowadays,” Henry said. “I’m not really worried about that [getting a job after college] right now. I’m more worried about getting internships and my classes.”

3 Responses for “College graduates face underemployment, report suggests”

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  2. Lynne says:

    Now I will know what the word “underemployment” means! Thanks Rach!

  3. Lynna says:

    Now I will know how to full new employees with college degrees in to low pay jobs ;) That’s all legal, right?!

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