The bad news for recent college graduates keeps piling up:
Job prospects have deteriorated for recent college graduates. Besides facing high unemployment rates, young college graduates are now accepting more jobs that do not require college degrees. Not only do these stints of over-qualification affect the future earnings of these college graduates, they also make it more difficult for high school graduates to find employment as they face competition from higher-educated workers. Young workers certainly face an uphill battle as the economy continues to struggle. (my emphasis)
I assume that two-year degree holders and four-year college graduates from colleges and universities with lesser reputations are also finding increasing competition from recent college graduates from more prestigious schools, for the same reason, but I don’t know if that’s actually the case. A couple of possible mitigating factors: (1) many associate degree holders have obtained training and/or certification for specific mid-skill jobs that other college graduates may not be able to compete for, even if they wanted to; and (2) affluent graduates from elite schools are much less likely to be having trouble finding jobs.
Meanwhile, Brookings has published a report that examines the college return-on-investment issue, arguing that while on average, the benefits of a college degree outweigh the costs, the benefits may not outweigh the costs for everyone. I haven’t read the entire report, but I’ve never thought arguments based on the average ROI of a college investment made much sense. Also, if we’re going to look at the issue broadly, measuring the return in terms of raw wages is a less interesting to me than the extent to which postsecondary degrees are a significant factor in moving people at the lower end of the economic ladder up to higher rungs, and whether people tend to stay at those higher rungs over time—and, most importantly—whether the positive effects have been trending up or down.
David Atkins thinks that the whole college push is basically a diversion from dealing with what he believes is a “broken economic system that does not serve the public interest.”