College students will grimace at today’s Wall Street Journal, which reports that, for the first time ever, a majority of the unemployed have completed some college education:
In May 4.8 million of the 9.2 million people older than 25 looking for work had spent at least some time in college, while 48% of the unemployed had only completed high school.The shift is due primarily to changing demographics in the U.S. A larger share of the population is attending college than ever before. In October of last year, 68.3% of 2011 high school graduates were enrolled in colleges or universities, according to the Labor Department.
For years, young people were told that a college degree—no matter what major—was the key to unlocking a high paying, steady work for the rest of your life. Clearly, that doesn’t work anymore (if it ever really did). Students need to think more carefully about their educational priorities before laying down what in some cases amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition paid and income foregone. Colleges need to change, too, by cutting costs and making sure their students are learning as much as they possibly can for every additional tuition dollar.In a world in which college degrees were scarce, just having a degree or even some postsecondary schooling marked you out as special in the workplace. In a world in which those degrees have become ordinary, something more — skills, attitude, creativity — is needed.For college grads facing a dismal jobs outlook, change can’t come fast enough.