NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

From Wall Street to Wal-Mart: Why College Graduates Are Not Getting Good Jobs

December 17, 2010

Colleges and universities are turning out graduates faster than America's labor markets are creating jobs that traditionally have been reserved for those with degrees, according to a new report from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

  • More than one-third of current working graduates are in jobs that do not require a degree, and the proportion appears to be rising rapidly.
  • Many of them are better described as "underemployed" rather than "gainfully employed."
  • Indeed, 60 percent of the increased college graduate population between 1992 and 2008 ended up in these lower skill jobs.

This raises real questions about the desirability of pushing to increase the proportion of Americans attending and graduating from four year colleges and universities.  This, along with other evidence on the negative relationship between government higher education spending and economic growth, suggests we may have significantly "over invested" public funds in colleges and universities, says the Center.

Young Americans vary vastly in their aptitudes, their motivations, their interests.  National policy prescriptions like "everyone should have a postsecondary education" ignore the vast differences between people.  If the public objective is to use higher education as a means to form human capital and expand national productive capabilities, it appears much of the recent "investment" in colleges is misdirected.

Source: "From Wall Street to Wal-Mart: Why College Graduates Are Not Getting Good Jobs," Center for College Affordability and Productivity, December 16, 2010.

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