NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Job Market: Is College Overrated?

February 20, 2013

During the most recent economic downturn, college graduates have had a hard time finding work after they earn their degree. Predominant public policies and a mismatch between college graduate supply and job demand are the two primary reasons that half of all college graduates under the age of 25 are unemployed or underemployed, says Pamela Villarreal, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis.

  • Though many jobs do not require four-year degrees, the U.S. Department of Education made $166 billion dollars in loans in 2012.
  • With an outpouring of federal funding, college costs have risen 130 percent more than inflation since 1988.

The mismatch between the number of graduates produced and the jobs available is evident in the teaching profession, where colleges have turned out more than a quarter of a million bachelor's or master's degrees annually since 2000, despite the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimating that only 539,100 teaching positions will be available between 2010 and 2020.

Though we are graduating more youth than ever before, some of the faster job growth is projected for work opportunities that do not require a college degree, including apprenticeship jobs commonly found in skilled trades, machinists, mechanics and drivers.

  • Job growth for brick masons, plumbers and construction equipment operators is projected to grow by 40 percent, 26 percent and 23 percent, respectively.
  • Villarreal says that jobs that require only an associate's degree or vocational training will experience significant growth rates in the coming decade.
  • Demand for diagnostic medical sonographers will increase 44 percent, occupational therapy assistant jobs will increase by 41 percent and dental hygienist jobs will grow by 38 percent.

Some jobs requiring a bachelor's or master's degree are expected to grow. For example, demand will increase for biomedical engineering jobs (a 62 percent increase), software engineers (a 30 percent increase), market research analyst positions (a 41 percent increase) and cost estimators (a 36 percent increase).

Villarreal demonstrates that there is a mismatch between job demand through the next decade and the graduates we are producing. It is important that the federal government stop interfering in employment and education markets by curtailing federal student loan programs and equalizing tax credits for all students at all colleges, be they four year or otherwise.

Source: Pamela Villarreal, "The Job Market: Is College Overrated?" National Center for Policy Analysis, February 2013.


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